How to Protect Yourself from Coronavirus COVID-19 (2020)

You’re probably really worried about the new COVID-19 coronavirus, especially if there are confirmed cases near you. Fortunately, you can take action to protect yourself and your family from contracting the infection. Simple things like staying home whenever possible, avoiding sick people, washing your hands often, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces can help you stay well. If you suspect you may be sick, call your doctor or your local health department immediately. Then, stay home until they tell you to seek medical care.

Protecting Yourself Against Coronavirus

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water to minimize your infection risk. The best way to prevent coronavirus is to wash your hands as often as possible. Wet your hands with warm water, then apply a mild soap. Work the soap into a lather for 20-30 seconds, then rinse your hands clean under warm running water. This is about how long it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself twice.
    • The World Health Organization recommends not just rubbing your hands palm to palm, but interlacing and interlocking your fingers in a variety of different ways to make sure every surface is clean. Use the paper towel you dry your hands off with to turn off the faucet.
    • Always wash your hands before you eat or drink anything. However, it’s also best to wash your hands anytime you’re out in public or after you’re around someone you suspect may be sick.
    • If you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that contains 60-95% alcohol. Alcohol percentages higher than 95% are actually less effective.
  2. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth. You may come into contact with the coronavirus on a surface, like a doorknob or countertop. When this happens, the germs can linger on your hands, so you can easily infect yourself if you touch your face with dirty hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth in case the virus is on your skin.
    • If you need to touch your face, wash your hands first so you’re less likely to infect yourself.
  3. Stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing. Since coronavirus is a respiratory infection, coughing and sneezing are common symptoms. Additionally, coughing and sneezing both release the virus into the air, so they may increase your risk of infection. Keep your distance from people who appear to have symptoms of an upper respiratory infection.
    • If it’s appropriate, ask the person to stay away from you. You could say, “I noticed you were coughing. I hope you feel better soon, but please keep your distance so I don’t get sick.”
    • If you know someone has been around sick people, it’s a good idea to distance yourself from them, too.
  4. Don’t shake hands with people, whether they show symptoms or not. Unfortunately, people who are infected with coronavirus may spread the illness even if they aren’t showing symptoms. To protect yourself, limit your contact with others just in case. Kindly decline to shake hands until the coronavirus threat is over.
    • You might say, “I’m happy to meet you! Normally I’d shake your hand, but the CDC recommends limiting personal contact right now to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
  5. Disinfect high-touch surfaces daily using a product that kills viruses. Unfortunately, coronavirus can linger on surfaces, such as doorknobs, countertops, and faucets. Use a spray disinfectant or bleach wipes to clean these surfaces daily. Make sure the surface stays wet for about 10 minutes so it effectively kills the virus. This limits the risk of the virus lingering on the surfaces and potentially causing an infection.
    • In your home, disinfect your front door knob, kitchen counters, bathroom counters, and faucets.
    • At work, clean surfaces that people tend to touch, such as doorknobs, stair railings, tables, and surface counters.
    • You can also make disinfectant by mixing 1 cup (240 ml) of bleach with 1 gallon (3.8 L) of warm water.
  6. Try not to worry too much if you’re not truly at risk. Myths about coronavirus have spread on social media, sometimes causing unnecessary fear. Get the facts about coronavirus from a reliable source like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). Additionally, it’s helpful to fact-check your sources before making any decisions.
    • While this new strain of coronavirus originated in China, it is not connected to Asian people. Don’t treat someone differently or distance yourself from someone because they are Asian. Treat everyone with kindness and remember that anyone can get infected.
    • According to the WHO, you cannot get coronavirus from mail or products that originated in China.
    • The WHO also denies that there are specific foods that prevent coronavirus.

Practicing Social Distancing

  1. Stay home as much as possible to distance yourself from other people. You’ve probably heard about “social distancing” or “physical distancing” which can help limit the spread of the virus. To practice social distancing, only leave your home for necessities, like restocking groceries or going to work. If you can, work or do your schoolwork at home, as well. Don’t go out to eat, hang out in bars, or participate in recreational activities, like going to the movies.
    • By social distancing, you reduce the likelihood you’ll come into contact with the virus. If everyone does this, the virus won’t spread as easily.
    • If you’re in a high-risk group for complications, it’s very important to stay in your home as often as possible. You’re considered high-risk if you’re 65 or older, have a compromised immune system, or have a health condition like heart disease or asthma.
  2. Limit groups to 10 or fewer if you socialize. You may decide to still see family or friends, especially if you’re in a low-risk group. If so, keep your gatherings to 10 or fewer people at a time. This can help limit the spread of the virus, especially if you allow each other personal space.
    • This includes gatherings at your home or outdoors where others aren’t around. Don’t meet up with friends or family at a public place.
  3. Maintain a distance of 6 ft (1.8 m) between you and others when you go out. You may need to leave your home to shop for groceries or get fresh air. To protect yourself while you’re out, make sure you don’t get too close to other people. In general, keep a 6 ft (1.8 m) circle of personal space around you.
    • If someone is getting too close to you, move away and kindly remind them that the CDC recommends maintaining a 6 ft (1.8 m) gap. Say, “Hey, I’m not trying to be rude, but I’d like to maintain some space between us like the CDC recommends.”

Caring for a Sick Person

  1. Wear disposable protective gear while providing care. Put on disposable gloves, a face mask, and a paper gown before you care for the sick person. When you leave their room, take off your protective gear and throw it in a plastic trash bag. Don’t reuse your protective clothing because you may accidentally come into contact with the virus.
    • Coronavirus spreads through the air and can linger on your clothing, so protect yourself as best you can.
  2. Don’t share household items with the infected person. Coronavirus can linger on items like cups, plates, utensils, and towels. Use separate items for each member of the household while someone is sick. Otherwise, you might accidentally spread the infection.
    • Play it safe! When in doubt, wash the item before you use it or get another one.
  3. Wash all laundry on hot to disinfect it. Clothing, bedding, and towels can all hold coronavirus, so it’s important to wash them thoroughly. Set your washing machine on the hottest setting and measure out the recommended amount of detergent for the load size. Then, wash your laundry on the normal or heavy-duty setting, depending on your model.
    • If it’s safe for your fabrics, add a cap full of bleach or color-safe bleach to sanitize the laundry.
  4. Open a window to ventilate the room if weather permits. Since coronavirus is airborne, you’re at a greater risk of infection while you’re sharing a space with a sick person. Ventilating the room may help clear out the air, which can minimize your risk of contracting the virus. Open a window or turn on an air conditioner if you can.
    • Don’t open a window if it’s raining or the temperature is uncomfortably cold or hot.

Avoiding Transmission from Animals

  1. Cook meat and eggs thoroughly to reduce the risk of infection. Coronaviruses may transmit from animals to humans, so it’s important to cook animal products thoroughly to kill any germs. Follow the instructions for the type of meat or eggs you’re cooking, and check the internal temperature of your food using a food thermometer before you eat. Heat your foods to the following temperatures:
    • Chicken and turkey should be 165 °F (74 °C).
    • Cook beef or pork to 145 °F (63 °C).
    • Heat ground meat to 160 °F (71 °C).
    • Eggs need to reach 160 °F (71 °C).
  2. Limit your contact with live animals to lower the risk of transmission. Don’t risk handling an animal that might be ill. Avoid handling live animals unless you work with animals or are caring for pets. If you must handle an animal other than your pet, touch it as little as possible.
    • Farm animals and bats are the most likely sources of infection.
  3. Wash your hands immediately after handling live animals if you must. You don’t want germs from the animals to linger on your skin. Wet your hands and apply a mild soap. Lather the soap on your hands for 30 seconds, then rinse it off with warm water. Dry your hands on a clean, dry towel.
    • If you’re handling multiple animals, wash your hands between animals in case one animal is ill. This way you won’t accidentally infect the other animals.

Dealing with a Possible Infection

  1. Call your doctor or the health department if you think you have coronavirus. If you have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, stay at home and contact your doctor or the health department to ask about coronavirus testing. Your doctor will ask if you’ve recently traveled, have been to an area with an outbreak, or may have come into contact with someone who might have coronavirus. If your doctor thinks you need to be tested for coronavirus, they’ll give you instructions on where to go. In the meantime, stay at home so you don’t risk infecting others.
    • The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Some patients are also reporting other respiratory symptoms, as well.
    • Tip: If you go into your doctor’s office, be sure to wear a facemask to prevent spreading the infection to those with weakened immune systems. Notify your provider about any new symptoms of fever or difficulty breathing.
  2. Stay home if you have symptoms of a respiratory infection. Don’t leave your home if you’re sick. You may be contagious and don’t want to spread the virus to anyone else. Focus on resting and giving your body time to recover. If you feel you need to see a doctor, call ahead so the office can prepare to receive you and take steps to prevent exposure to others.
    • If you go to the doctor, wear a disposable face mask if you have one. This will prevent germs from spreading.COVID-19 is characterized by a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. However, a runny nose and sore throat are not indicators of this strain of coronavirus. If you have these symptoms, you might have a different kind of respiratory illness, like the common cold.
  3. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe symptoms. Try not to worry, but COVID-19 may cause serious complications. It’s important that you get medical treatment right away if you develop serious symptoms. Get emergency care or call for help if you have the following symptoms:
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Persistent pain or pressure in your chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or faceWarning: Talk to your doctor to find out if there are other symptoms that may be severe or concerning for you. This list doesn’t include all possible serious symptoms, just the most common ones.
  4. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. You’ll likely cough and sneeze a lot if you have coronavirus or another respiratory infection. Protect others from your germs by covering your mouth with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands). This will prevent your germs from becoming airborne. Discard the tissue immediately into a closed container and wash your hands.
    • Try to keep a box of tissues near you at all times. However, it’s also okay to sneeze into your bent elbow if you don’t have a tissue.



  • At present, the CDC does not recommend wearing a facemask while in public to prevent contracting coronavirus.
  • Coronavirus symptoms show up within 2-14 days after exposure.
  • If you experience a high fever, cough, or difficulty breathing within 14 days of traveling or coming into contact with someone who is being investigated for coronavirus, tell your medical provider to see if you need to get tested.
  • Despite some mentions on social media, Corona beer does not cause coronavirus. The name is a coincidence.


  • A serious coronavirus infection may cause complications like pneumonia, so visit your doctor if your symptoms aren’t improving or you have shortness of breath.
  • Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. They won’t protect you from coronavirus. Antibiotic misuse can be bad for your health, so only take them exactly as directed by a doctor.


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