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Here comes cold and flu season and, yes, we’re still battling the COVID-19 pandemic. If someone in your household is an older adult or has certain underlying medical conditions, then all household members should act as if they are at an increased risk for severe illness and take special precautions. If you don’t, then the effort put toward protection of your sensitive person(s) goes to waste if other residents are careless in public and bring germs back home.
Although you can’t live in a bubble, you can practice extra infection-control measures if you live with someone who’s at high risk of major illness.
Stay home as much as possible. Easier said than done, but the reality is that each time you go out into a public space, you’re encountering microscopic enemies ready to attack. The increased availability of grocery delivery, curbside pickup, and restaurant take-out service makes being homebound a bit easier.
Wear a mask (KN-95 if possible) whenever you do leave the home, regardless of your region’s current mask-wearing regulations.
Abide by physical distancing recommendations of at least 6 feet.
Frequent hand washing has never been more critical. Wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you’ve been out in public, have coughed or sneezed, or have come into contact with a high-touch surface. Dry with a clean paper towel, not a reusable cloth. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer made with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Keep your hands off your face. Even the best hand washers will still harbor bacteria and virus picked up from whatever they touch. Don’t give the germs a free ride to your orifices.
Don’t hug, kiss, touch hands, or share food and beverage with people who are at an increased risk in your household. It’s also a good rule of thumb for all people during flu season.
Avoid having visitors into your home. In an emergency, like needing a home repair person, advise the guest of your high-risk household and be sure they do not have symptoms of illness. Any guest in your home must wear a mask and wash their hands.
Create good airflow. When it’s practical to do so, open windows to create a cross-breeze of fresh air.
Regularly clean high-touch surfaces and any shared items like doorknobs, countertops, toilets, cabinet handles, TV remotes, and such. Thorough cleaning involves two steps: wiping objects and surfaces with a household cleaning product to remove dirt and grime, followed by spraying with a proper disinfectant such as Lysol.
Hand washing is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. It’s best to use an antimicrobial soap during these concerning times, but any hand soap will work if you follow proper protocol:
Rub your hands together with soap for at least 20 seconds to produce lots of lather. Use antimicrobial soap if available. Lather-up away from running water so that the lather is not washed away.
Wash thoroughly—front and back of hands, between fingers, and at least two inches up your wrists.
Rinse well under warm running water.
Dry your hands on a clean cloth or paper towel, not a resuable towel.
Note: The CDC recommends using alcohol-based hand rubs with 60–95 percent alcohol in healthcare settings. Unless hands are visibly soiled, an alcohol-based hand rub is preferred over soap and water in most clinical situations due to evidence of better compliance compared to soap and water.