Coronavirus: From hand-washing to wearing masks, here's how to protect yourself

ByLeticia Juarez KABC logo
Monday, March 16, 2020
Coronavirus: Here's how to protect yourself
Amid a worldwide coronavirus outbreak, doctors say not everyone needs to start wearing masks. Here's how to protect yourself.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Concerns over the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 continue to grow around the world and here at home.

But when it comes to protecting yourself and your family's health there is nothing novel about it.

"For us in America, right now is to be prepared. We are not seeing the extent of the disease like other parts of the world. I think that's given us a little time to step back and say OK what do we need to do?" said Dr. Michael Daignault with Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

As an emergency room doctor, Daignault says the first defense against the virus is in your hands.

"I think the absolute best thing you can do is keep your hands away from your face and it is not sexy but wash your hands frequently," he said.

Dr. Mark Loafman, chairman of Family Medicine at Cook County Health, explains the proper technique and duration for washing your hands to prevent the spread of illnesses. Scrubbing should continue for at least 20 seconds, which happens to be the amount of time it takes to hum the"Happy Birthday" song twice.

It takes 20 seconds with soap and warm water to properly clean the front and back of hands. The same goes for hand sanitizer which is OK when soap and water aren't available.

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The US Food and Drug Administration said that water should be 100 degrees to properly remove oils from hands, which may harbor bacteria. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that water can be warm or cold, as long as you're scrubbing with soap for 20 seconds.

A 2017 Rutgers University study said that lukewarm, or cold water could work just as well. However, if you prefer warmer water at that 100 degree temperature, and it's available, you might as well use it.

While some are also using surgical masks in the hopes of keeping germs away the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and doctors aren't recommending them.

"We are not recommending people should walk around wearing masks right now. If you are sick, you should probably wear a mask. If you are sick, you should stay at home," said Daignault.

Household disinfectant wipes and sprays that say they kill viruses are also good for cleaning "hot zones" in your home or office including countertops, door handles and other frequently shared items.

It also a good idea to carry wipes if you plan on traveling. "Wipe down the seat tray and seat pocket in front of you and your hand rails. That definitely helps. And if you want to do that in public I don't think there is any harm to that," said Daignault.

To learn more about the coronavirus go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.