Nobody wants to accidentally carry the COVID-19 coronavirus home after an outing to the grocery story, pharmacy or at the end of a workday.
That’s especially true in homes with seniors and others at high risk of complications from the illness, including people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems.
Although it’s best to stay home as much as possible, if you must leave, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure to the virus and the risk of infecting others in your household, says Dr. Michelle McCauley, a resident physician with Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road.
“At some point, most people are going to have to leave the house to pick up food or other necessities, but once you get back, it’s a good idea to take precautions, especially if you have someone in the house who is at high risk,” Dr. McCauley says. “There are several things you can do to mitigate the risk to yourself and your loved ones at home.”
While out, she says, take the following steps:
- Limit contact with others – try to stay at least 6 feet away from other people.
- Practice good hand hygiene by regularly washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer with a least 60 percent alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wear a non-medical cloth face covering in areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.). Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth when removing the covering and wash your hands immediately afterward. More information on cloth face coverings can be found by clicking here.
- Carry sanitary wipes to disinfect shopping carts, ATM buttons and other items before you touch them.
- While at the market, avoid sorting through items that others may have handled.
- Keep napkins, facial tissues or paper towels handy to use as a barrier when you open doors or scratch a facial itch.
- Avoid cash transactions so you don’t exchange bills with others.
Although public health officials believe people are much more likely to be infected with the coronavirus through close contact with an infected person, it’s still a good idea to disinfect commonly touched items when you return home, too, Dr. McCauley says.
“Have a plan in place to safely re-enter your home,” Dr. McCauley says. “Consider designating an area near your entryway as a kind of decontamination zone.”
- Leave your shoes outside the door. Some experts suggest having a hamper lined with a garbage bag just inside the door as a depository for clothing or jackets that may have come in contact with the virus. Launder the items daily.
- Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, then shower as well.
- Using disinfectant wipes, clean items such as keys, cell phones and other things you carry with you during outings.
- Use a disinfectant cleaner on surfaces you make contact with as you re-enter the house, such as doorknobs and light switches.
- Wipe down cans and cartons as you put them away, then wash your hands thoroughly.
Once you’re home, Dr. McCauley says, try to limit your contact with others and continue to follow good hygiene practices, keeping an eye out for any sign of illness.
“Although it’s best to stay home as much as possible right now, if you have to leave, taking a few extra precautions can go a long way toward keeping you and your loved ones safe and healthy,” Dr. McCauley says.
Dr. Michelle McCauley
Physician, Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Andrews
Dr. Michelle McCauley is a family medicine physician at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Andrews.Learn More
- Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine – Carolinas Campus, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
- Tidelands Health MUSC Family Medicine Residency Program, Family Medicine
Meet the Expert
Dr. Michelle McCauley
Dr. Michelle McCauley is a family medicine physician at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Andrews.