15 Ways to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus at Home
From isolation rooms to hand sanitizer stations, here's how to protect your home from COVID-19.
Coronavirus is easily spreadable, so even if you're only leaving your house a few times each week—whether that's to go grocery shopping, to take a walk, or to support a local restaurant by getting take-out—you could end up being exposed to the virus. And while you may feel like you're being extra cautious when you leave your home, you might not be taking proper safety measures inside your home. Defending your home against the virus is another key measure in preventing it from spreading, and we've got all the expert coronavirus home prep tips to help you stay safe.
Take extra precautions when returning home.
Any household members who have to leave the house for work or any other reasons need to take extra precautions when returning home, according to Sandra Crawley, RN, medical consultant with Mom Loves Best. They can't just walk back into the house like normal.
"Take a change of shoes and leave the 'clean' shoes in the car," Crawley says. "They should change out of their work attire and take a shower as soon as they get home. Be sure not to shake out clothing as the virus can become airborne. All clothing should be washed in the warmest setting possible and thoroughly dried."
Prepare a room for isolation.
Of course, none of the home preparation you do can fully protect every member of your household who is going outside. That's why it's also important to prepare for what you'll do if someone in your home does contract coronavirus.
"In case you or a member of the family contracts the virus, there should be a physically limited space where the person will stay in," says Nikola Djordjevic, MD, co-founder of HealthCareers. "Since COVID-19 is highly contagious, an infected person shouldn't move around the entire home and spread the virus everywhere. The room should be as empty as possible, so that the virus doesn't stay on surfaces too long. Also, the room should have a window or a balcony, to ensure that fresh air can easily enter the room."
Designate one member of the house as a caregiver.
When someone is using the isolation room—whether they've tested positive for coronavirus or think they have it—only one person in the house should be allowed to care for the sick family member, Crawley explains. This helps lessen the sources the virus can overtake. Wearing gloves and face masks if possible, the designated caregiver should "maintain good hand hygiene and sanitize surfaces frequently," as well as "monitor themselves and other family members for further signs and symptoms of sickness."
Wipe down home surfaces daily.
As early studies have shown—like this March 2020 study from the New England Journal of Medicine—the virus can live on surfaces anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. So cleaning your home daily is extremely important, as letting even a day pass in between cleaning could allow the coronavirus to infect someone in the house.
"Buy Lysol or an aerosol equivalent to spray fabric furniture, bedding, and sheets daily. And replace sheets frequently," says Kim Langdon, MD, medical advisor with Parenting Pod. "Clean surfaces with 25 percent bleach solution (mixing three parts water with one part bleach) for non-wood floors, furniture, painted wood, doorknobs, refrigerator handles, microwave handles, stovetop knobs, cabinet handles, and knobs. Also clean your toaster and can opener, and don't forget to include external doors. For stained wood tables and surfaces, use wood safe cleaners."
Set up a hand sanitizer station by your front door.
All the precautions and steps you take to prepare your home mean nothing if household members don't remember to take their own measures. Giuseppe Aragona, a family medicine doctor with Prescription Doctor, recommends having an "alcohol-based hand sanitizer placed on a stand" by the front door of your home. This acts as an instant reminder that any time someone leaves or enters the house, they should use the hand sanitizer and "practice good hygiene."
Have a separate container of toothpaste for everyone in your house.
Unfortunately, most people forget about their dental care products when thinking about coronavirus prep, according to Elizabeth Cranford Robinson, DMD, with Cranford Dental. Most families or couples share a tube of toothpaste, and normally that would be fine. But during the coronavirus pandemic, Robinson recommends that each household member have their own "paste, floss, and brush," as viruses can be spread from using the same toothpaste on different brushes. She also reminds everyone to replace and disinfect their toothbrushes, floss, and the containers they keep them in during this time.
Stock up on your pet essentials as well.
Most households don't just have human members, however. When taking this time to stock up on everything your family needs for shelter, don't forget your pets says Rachel Barrack, DVM, founder of Animal Acupuncture.
"As you're stocking the pantry with your personal essentials, make sure to have enough of your pet's food, medications, kitty litter, restroom pads, and more on hand. A 30-day supply is recommended," she says. Stocking up will save you extra trips outside, with the potential for virus exposure.
Barrack adds that "in the event you are unable to care for your pet, write instructions of their daily needs and designate a trusted family member or friend to be an emergency caregiver. If you must care for your pet and have contracted the disease, wash your hands before and after, and wear a mask."
Be extra cautious with the products you bring inside.
There's no doubt you're still going to be bringing new products into your home during this time, whether those are groceries or other products that you ordered online. However, you need to consider all these items as potential ways the virus could get into your home, according to Leann Poston, MD, a contributor with Invigor Medical. As long as there are no perishables, Poston recommends that groceries ideally be left outside the home for three days to prevent virus transfer into the home. If that's not possible, however, she recommends double bagging groceries so that the "contaminated outer bag" can be carefully removed and disposed.
Wipe down food delivery as well.
There's no harm in still wanting to support local food business during the coronavirus pandemic. And with most places delivering and helpful new tools like Uber Eats "Leave at Door" delivery, it may seem like a relatively safe way to continue to enjoy your favorites. However, don't get too comfortable. Even if you choose the "Leave at Door" option, Gary Linkov, MD, reminds consumers to wipe down the outside containers from all delivery or take-out orders. Alongside that, Poston says that you should also wipe down milk and juice cartons when bringing them inside. If you have clean containers to transfer any food into, she and Linkov recommend that as well. And wash your hands thoroughly before eating!
Clean your car.
A car is a vessel that connects your home and the outside world. So if you're not cleaning that as well, you risk contaminating your home. A simple touch to close your car door can take a virus lingering on your car and transfer it to the handle of your front door when you go inside. Langdon says that before you get in your car and when you leave, you should always "wipe down the car steering wheel, as well as the handles inside and outside."
Use a humidifier in your home.
While research is still underdeveloped on the coronavirus and how to prevent it, Langdon says that some early signs suggest that using a humidifier in the home may make it "harder for the virus to spread." After all, Harvard Medical School Global Health Research Core director Megan Murray, MD, explained to the Abundance Foundation that higher rates of transmission in similar viruses, like influenza, happen when the air is drier. Langdon recommends using a humidifier to keep the humidity level in your house at about 50 percent as possible coronavirus prevention.
Clean your phone consistently.
Your phone is probably getting more action than normal while you're either working remotely or spending more idle time at home, says Andrew Moore-Crispin, director of content at Ting Mobile. It's also one of the only things you consistently carry around you, even when you're outside of the home. That's why Moore-Crispin recommends cleaning your phone consistently during this time, and that you avoid sharing your device with others in your home.
"First, power your device down, unplug all accessories, and remove its case," he says. "Use disinfecting wipes containing 70 percent isopropyl alcohol to get rid of germs that have found their way onto your phone, or use a spray with a soft cloth to wipe down your device. Make your own cleaner by mixing 60 percent water with 40 percent alcohol. However, don't use paper towels or other abrasive materials that may damage your phone."
Wash your hands thoroughly throughout the day.
Hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves all work well to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. But the ultimate prevention method? Washing your hands! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hand washing over anything else, including hand sanitizer. They recommend washing your hands with soap and water for a least 20 seconds several times every day, including (but not limited to) when you have "been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing."
Have any sick household members wear a mask.
Any person positive with COVID-19, or presumably positive, should be wearing a mask in the home—even if they are in an isolated room.
"This will limit the virus spread by limiting the infected exhalations going into the air," says Langdon. "These droplets of saliva with the virus can remain airborne and expose others who are breathing the same air. Masks prevent this aerosol spread of the virus as the infected person breathes."
Don't let others inside your home.
Every new person that steps foot into your home could potentially be bringing the coronavirus with them. Poston says you should limit the house to the smallest social group possible, which will most likely be the "nuclear family unit," with parents and children. Anyone who is not staying in the house long-term during this time should not be invited in.
"It will be difficult, but to protect your home and family from infection, limit access to the home to only this social group," she says. "Talk with other family members and friends regularly online or by phone. If a family member or friend comes over, visit with them in the yard or on the porch while maintaining a distance of six feet or more."