7 Things You're Doing at Walmart That Put You at Risk of Coronavirus

These common consumer habits could be putting you—and other shoppers—at risk.

While many stores have closed their doors—either temporarily or for good—amid the coronavirus pandemic, there's one major brand for whom business is booming: Walmart. However, as consumers turn to the retail giant on a daily basis for food and other essentials, they are exposing themselves to serious health risks if they do so without without taking the proper precautions. That's why, to help you stay safe on your next trip to Walmart, we gathered the following list of shopping mistakes that could put you at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Using the restroom

public restroom with toilet and safety bar
Shutterstock/Ben Carlson

If you want to play it safe when you're visiting Walmart, make sure you've used the facilities before you leave the house—public bathrooms have multiple surfaces that could be contaminated, which means they can be major sources for virus transmission.

"Touching the door handles, counters, etc. after
 washing your hands" puts you at a substantial risk of contracting coronavirus, says Leann Poston MD, a medical content expert at Invigor Medical. "It is also still unknown whether viruses, or only viral particles, are excreted in the stool," which means there's yet another potential transmission source, she adds. And if you want to protect yourself, brush up on these 13 Safety Precautions You Should Take Every Day to Prevent Coronavirus.

Trying on clothes

woman trying on dress

With no way of knowing who has previously handled the store's apparel, Poston says, "trying on clothes, shoes, or other items that have been previously worn 
or touched" is an unnecessary risk. Besides, it's not like you have a ton of opportunities to show off new outfits right now.

Using self-checkout stations

Grocery Store Self Checkout Grocery Shopping Mistakes

Think using the self-checkout option instead of interacting with a cashier will necessarily keep you safe? Think again.

Poston notes that the pen to sign for credit card purchases, as well as the touchscreen used to submit purchase information, are almost certainly covered in various germs, bacteria, and, quite possibly, COVID-19. And if you want to know how the big-box brand has been transformed by the pandemic, check out these 7 Major Ways Walmart Won't Be the Same After Coronavirus.

Touching shopping carts or baskets without wiping them down first

white hands pushing walmart shopping cart
Shutterstock/1000 Words

Don't even think of grabbing a grocery basket or cart without wiping it down—and, ideally, donning a pair of disposable gloves exclusively used for your shopping trip.

"COVID-19 and other viruses can live on surfaces for three to nine days, and potentially live in the air for up to three hours," says Enchanta Jenkins, MD, MHA. "By going to these large-box stores and using frequently touched surfaces, such as shopping carts or hand baskets, that have not be disinfected, people are putting themselves at risk."

Opening refrigerator cases

white hand opening freezer case in supermarket

Grocery carts and baskets aren't the only things you need to exercise caution when touching during your shopping excursion.

While Walmart has recommended that customers wear masks to shop, it is not technically required that they do so. According to Poston, that means sick people can easily contaminate frequently touched surfaces, like the handles on refrigerator cases—which are less likely to be wiped down by customers than baskets and carts might be.

Buying pre-opened merchandise

young white woman buying vacuum
Shutterstock/Igor Kardasov

Regardless of how big a discount you can get on open-box items, it's definitely isn't worth risking your health.

"Items may be returned to stores [that] have been sitting in people's homes for the last several weeks," becoming contaminated by individuals who are sick along the way, says Poston.

Not practicing proper social distancing

busy walmart checkout line
Erin Deleon / Shutterstock

Perhaps the greatest risk you're taking at Walmart? Getting too close to your fellow shoppers. "These locations are often crowded, thus making it more difficult to maintain a six-foot distance from others most of the time," says Jenkins.

While the retailer has limited the number of customers allowed in stores at any given time and taken measures to ensure social distancing, it's ultimately on shoppers to do their part in order to keep themselves and others safe. And if you want to separate the fact from the fiction when it comes to COVID-19, these are the 21 Coronavirus Myths You Need to Stop Believing, According to Doctors.

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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