7 Things Doctors Warn You Not to Do When You Go Out in Public

From sharing meals to playing sports, these activities are off-limits amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has made countless people approach returning to their everyday activities with understandable trepidation. And while setting foot inside a mall or heading to the hair salon might be a stress-inducing activity after months spent indoors, there are plenty of seemingly-safe public activities that you may be eager to resume—but experts say you shouldn't. If you want to stay safe, read on to discover what dangerous public activities doctors want you to avoid for the time being. And for more fun you'd be better off postponing, These Are the Worst Coronavirus "Super Spreaders" You Need to Know.

Share a meal with friends

Picnic in the park

While you may be eager to support your local restaurants, it'll be some time before you can safely sit down to a shared meal with anyone you're not also sharing a roof with.

"Definitely avoid sharing serving utensils, including serving pieces," says Cara Natterson, MD. "If people aren't bringing their own food, one person should serve so that multiple people aren't touching the same plates, spoons, etc." to avoid potential contamination and coronavirus transmission. And for more activities to avoid, discover these 7 Things You Absolutely Should Not Be Doing With Friends Right Now.

Touch hand rails or doorknobs

woman reaching for door handle

Holding onto a hand rail while walking down a staircase or opening a door may be such an automatic behavior that you don't realize you're doing it. However, Natterson says to "avoid this if you can" when in public, as multi-touch surfaces like these can spread the virus from person to person.

If you can't avoid touching a railing or doorknob, "just make sure to wash your hands or use your hand sanitizer immediately after, and avoid touching your face until you do," she suggests.

Swim in a public pool

two little girls having fun in the pool, math jokes

Those dips in your local pool will just have to wait until a coronavirus vaccine is available and herd immunity is established.

"Swimming together in a pool with people who don't live under your same roof is not a great idea—literally, you are mixing the germ pool," says Natterson. However, if you're craving some time outdoors, she says that sitting poolside while maintaining six feet of distance between you and other people is a safer alternative.

Use your phone

young black woman using cell phone in grocery store
Shutterstock/Tyler Olson

Your phone may be the item you touch most on a daily basis, but if you're using it while you're out in public, you could be putting yourself at risk for serious harm.

Robert Karsch, MD, FAAOS, a surgeon with AICA Orthopedics, recommends that people "stop touching their devices [including] cell phones" when they begin to resume their daily activities, as these can provide a direct pathway for pathogens on your hands to reach your face. If using your phone is simply unavoidable, however, "wash your hands and don't touch your face," recommends Karsch. And if you want to protect your device against contamination, here's How Experts Say You Should Clean Your Phone to Stop Coronavirus Spread.

Board a crowded train

young asian people handing onto public transportation railing

See a packed train pulling into the station? You might just want to wait for the next one to arrive.

"Do your best to use [public transportation] during off hours when spaces are less crowded," suggests Natterson. If you can't, she recommends wearing a mask, refraining from touching surfaces like doors and railings, and washing or sanitizing your hands afterward if you do. And if you want to keep yourself safe, make sure you know The Worst Thing You Do Every Time You Go Outside.

Play team sports

old men playing basketball, over 40 fitness

Even open air activities, like playing team sports, will have to wait until there's been significant progress toward eradicating coronavirus for good.

Since coronavirus spreads easily through person-to-person contact, any kind of shared sports equipment—no matter how briefly it's touched—can turn into a transmission point. Instead, "try to find activities where you don't need to share what is being touched" says Natterson, who also recommends wearing a mask and washing your hands when you're done with any type of group activity. And if you do want to get your social life back on track, check out these 7 Ways to See Your Friends Safely As Lockdown Ends.

Play on playgrounds

kids playing on playground equipment

While your kids may be eager to get back to playing at the playground, it's going to be some time before they can do so safely again.

The CDC currently cautions against using playgrounds because of the risk of contamination on shared surfaces, as well as the difficulty of enforcing social distancing within these areas. If you do want to get some exercise with your kids, "go for a bike ride, walk or run together, roller skate, [or] play kickball—all while wearing a mask," suggests Natterson.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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