19 Common Words You're Saying That Spread Germs

These pronunciations could produce possible problems in terms of the pandemic.

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The current coronavirus outbreak has not only halted the daily routines for the vast majority of us, but it also has us reconsidering nearly every single thing we do day to day. Every behavior and every habit is up for close examination—take, for example, the way we speak. Turns out that there are certain words that we say regularly that are particularly productive in terms of spreading germs. This isn't a new phenomenon, of course, but the issue of how we share germs has never been a more pressing, maybe even lifesaving, concept to consider than it is in the age of COVID-19.

Research has shown us that the potentially deadly contagion can hang in the air for up to three hours in aerosol form, which means, when you're talking to other people, you could eventually contract COVID-19 from the droplets they produce while speaking.

According to Los Angeles-based speech-language pathologist Yvonne Johansen, "There are certain sounds where you would be more at risk of saliva coming out of your mouth—consonants produced by forcing air though a narrow channel." She cites f and v as two examples.

The technical term is a "fricative" consonant. "Fricatives are sounds where air escapes so they can carry saliva—especially when speaking with someone who doesn't practice intermittent swallowing," says Lisa Hogan, a speech and language therapist in Long Island. "Think of the word 'pop'—if you are one with wet lips, that will certainly spread when you say 'pop.'"

Johansen also notes that "sibilant" sounds—like s, z, and sh—are subsets of fricatives, which are also produced by airflow. That's why people with lisps produce more saliva when they speak.

Want to know which words could lead you to spread or catch something from those around you? Here are some terms to avoid in order to stay safe. And for more COVID-19 information, here are 13 Common Coronavirus Questions—Answered by Experts.

1
Healthy

Healthy

In order to stay… away from the doctor, avoid saying this word too close to others. And if you want to stay virus-free, avoid these 15 Seemingly Innocuous Habits That Increase Coronavirus Risk.

2
Therapists

Therapists

We fully encourage you to seek help from these professionals, but the word itself is another story. And if you could use advice from mental health experts, check out these 17 Mental Health Tips for Quarantine From Therapists.

3
President

President

Frankly, POTUS is not much better. So use his last name instead.

4
Pharmacy

Pharmacy

Definitely head to this place for all necessary medications, but leaving the name out of it is a good idea for now.

5
Splash

Splash

Don't make waves by saying this word. You don't want splashes of contagion microbes floating around the air!

6
Gesture

Gesture

That st combination is the real issue here. Just gesticulate instead of saying the word.

7
Fish

Firsh

Eat as much of this as you want, but try not to say it or…

8
Shellfish

Shellfish

Crustacean works just as well and produces less air and saliva.

9
Professor

Professor

We know there are degrees to consider here, but for now, you may want to go with teacher. And on the topic of school, here are 13 Amazing Homeschooling Tips From Actual Teachers.

10
Mouthful

Mouthful

Aim to keep your germs between your lips by not saying this fricative-full word.

11
Puff

Puff

Pass on this one at the moment. That and double f are a recipe for disaster.

12
Unselfish

Unselfish

The most unselfish thing you could do amid COVID-19 is remove this word from your lexicon, at least temporarily.

13
Smash

Smash

Stay-at-home guidelines are designed to "flatten the curve" of those getting sick. But why not help smash the curve by just not saying this word?

14
Feather

Feather

Like birds of a feather, we're in this together, so avoid this word, too.

15
Pop

Pop

Soda. Explode. Music. There are so many other ways to convey the many meanings of this word—and you should use them at the moment instead.

16
Expulsion

Expulsion

Why use this fancy and potentially dangerous word when "kicked out" is just as effective and safer?

17
Fantastic

Fantastic

Awesome is the better way to go.

18
Philosophies

Philosophies

We've all got 'em, especially when it comes to coronavirus. But let's not share them right now.

19
Pistachio

Pistachio

Who doesn't love this delightful nut that works great as a snack or the most underrated ice cream flavor? But for the foreseeable future, let's just agree to call this the "ice cream nut," until this contagion passes. And for more things to avoid amid the COVID-19 pandemic, here are 15 Seemingly Innocuous Habits That Increase Coronavirus Risk.

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