It’s natural that as stories about the coronavirus that started in China flood the news, you worry about whether you and your family could be at risk.
We are still learning about this new virus; there is much we do not know yet about how it spreads, how serious it can be, or how to treat it. The fact that so much is unknown is a big part of what makes it scary.
But there are things we do know — about this virus and other similar viruses — that can help us keep ourselves and families healthy.
All of the advice below assumes that you and your family have not recently traveled to an area where there are known cases of coronavirus, or had some other possible exposure. If that is the case, you should call your doctor for advice.
There are relatively few cases in the United States, and many measures are being taken to limit the spread of the virus. It’s important to stay informed and listen to the advice of public health officials in your area — and not panic if you or someone else in your family or community gets a cough and fever. It’s far more likely to be a cold, or the flu, than coronavirus.
In fact, the flu affects millions of people every year. Doctors and public health officials talk about ways you can help yourself and loved ones from potentially catching the flu on an annual basis. Those precautions may also keep you from getting the coronavirus, as it seems that the two illnesses spread in similar ways.
1. Make sure everyone washes their hands! Using soap and hot water and washing for 20 seconds (about as long as it takes you to sing happy birthday) does the trick. If you don’t have a sink handy, hand sanitizer will do — make sure you spread it well, getting it all over the hands including between the fingers.
2. Wash before meals and snacks, after being in public places, and after being around anyone who is or might be sick.
3. Practice habits such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep. This will help support a healthy immune system.
4. Avoid touching your mouth, face and nose unless you have washed your hands.
5. Carry sanitizing wipes with you when out of the house.
6. Supplement with extra vitamins such as ...
Does avoiding sick people mean staying home?
In addition to the steps above:
Stay away from sick people to the extent that this is possible. Unless there is a specific public health advisory in your area or an area you are traveling to, this does not mean holing up in your house, skipping school or daycare, and declining every birthday party invitation.
Ultimately, it’s impossible to stay away from anyone who has any germs that might be spread; as is true of many viruses, it may be that people with coronavirus are contagious before they realize that they are sick. Just be aware of symptoms of people around you, such as coughing or sneezing.
Keep space between you and others in public spaces (again, to the extent possible)
Keep hand sanitizer by the door of your house and ask guests to use it when they arrive. If anyone in your family gets a fever and cough, they should stay home. Chances are it’s not coronavirus, but whatever it is, it’s likely contagious.
Advice if you or a family member become symptomatic...
Watch for warning signs of problems, and seek medical attention if they occur:
- Trouble breathing (rapid or heavy breathing, sucking in around the neck or ribs, looking pale or bluish) severe cough that won’t stop
- High fever that won’t come down with acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Unusual sleepiness
- Irritability or pain that is difficult to manage
- Refusal to take fluids, or any signs of dehydration (dry mouth, no tears when crying, not urinating at least every six hours)
- Unusual rash
- Having a lot of vomiting or diarrhea
Most importantly, stay aware. If you feel sick contact your doctor.