With coronavirus hotspots flaring in the South and Midwest, it can feel like it's impossible to fully protect yourself against COVID-19. But that doesn't mean you're helpless: Wearing a mask, adhering to social distancing guidelines and practicing good hygiene are your best bets to avoid infection. That includes keeping your hands away from the germiest places—"it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it," says the CDC. Read on to discover what not to touch, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Germs are most often introduced into our body when we touch our eyes, nose or mouth, experts say. Wearing a mask can be a good reminder, but allergy season might make it difficult to keep your hands away. Treat itchy eyes or a runny nose with over-the-counter antihistamines, eye drops or nasal sprays if you suffer from seasonal allergies.
Door Handles (If You Can Help It)
Although researchers believe that person-to-person contact is more likely to spread coronavirus than touching surfaces, they've also found the virus can live for two to three days on hard surfaces like door handles. Better be safe than sorry—push doors with your arm or elbow when possible or wear disposable gloves when you're running errands.
Other People's Hands
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the pandemic response team, recently said he believes "the handshake is dead" because it's such an efficient spreader of coronavirus. That might sound dramatic, but right now the sensible course of action is to wave or elbow-bump instead of shaking hands.
Shopping cart handles were germ hotspots even in happier times. Avoid touching them or wipe them down with an antibacterial wipe and wash or sanitize your hands ASAP when you're shopping trip's over.
Press these germ magnets with a knuckle or the side of your hand; it'll lower the chances you'll transfer any germs, including coronavirus, to your face.
Public Screen Or Keypad (Without Washing Your Hands)
The checkout screens at grocery stores and keypads at banks are notoriously germy. Bring a pen with you and use the non-writing end to press keys and give your signature, or you can buy a mini-stylus that will attach to your keychain and allow you to stay touch-free.
A Community Pen
Bring your own pen with you anywhere you might need to use one—to the bank, doctor's office or on other essential errands.
Cash (If You Can Help It)
Cash might help spread coronavirus. Pay with plastic whenever possible.
The Office Coffee Pot
Research has found an unlikely ground zero for germ transmission in offices: The break room coffee pot. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer any time you use a public carafe, and if it's in your office, make sure they're regularly cleaned.
Think of everything you touch during the day, now how often you touch your cellphone. How frequently do you disinfect it. If the answer is anything other than regularly, your indispensable device is hosting an ongoing germ convention. Some experts recommend disinfecting your phone on a daily basis with a disinfectant wipe or a mixture of alcohol and water.
A Public Hand Sanitizer Pump
It's common sense—people touch hand sanitizer pumps with dirty hands, leaving their germs behind, meaning the hand sanitizer has to work harder to disinfect the next person who uses it. Some doctor's offices have even installed no-touch sanitizer dispensers. If those aren't available, use the side of your hand to touch the pump or, better yet, wash your hands.
Studies have found that coronavirus exists in feces and can be aerosolized when toilets flush. That means all kinds of germs settle on surfaces throughout restrooms, including the toilet handle. Use your fist to press the handle, and wash your hands thoroughly ASAP.
The Bottom of Your Purse or Backpack
Think of all the public surfaces you put your purse or backpack on throughout the day (hopefully not on public restroom floors). They can pick up all kinds of bugs, and if you touch them, or plop them down on your kitchen table or bed, you're inviting them to stick around your home. Hang your bag on a hook near the door instead.
Studies have found that ATM buttons can be up to nine times germier than a public toilet—and these days, it's likely some of those germs contain coronavirus. If you must use an ATM instead of a debit card, punch the buttons with a knuckle. You can also buy an inexpensive device, like the CleanKey, to keep on your keychain and use for touching public buttons instead.
A study done by Men's Health magazine found that public bikes were the germiest surfaces in New York City—germier than a Starbucks door handle or surfaces in Grand Central Terminal! Although public bikes haven't been connected with the coronavirus outbreak, it's not far-fetched to believe that they harbor that and other bugs. Skip the bikes, or be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after use.
How often do you pick up food packages at the grocery store to contemplate whether to buy them? Chances are several other people have too. To be safe, keep this type of contact to a minimum or wear disposable gloves when shopping.
The buttons at public crosswalks are often touched and rarely cleaned. Touch them, if you must, only with a knuckle or the side of your hand.
If malls around you have reopened, be vigilant about high-touch areas that could harbor coronavirus. Public enemy #1: Escalator handrails. Avoid touching them if you can, wear disposable gloves while you're out, or bring hand sanitizer along on your trip.
Grocery Store Conveyor Belts
Made of porous plastic, grocery store conveyor belts were hotspots of viruses and bacteria even in pre-pandemic times. Now it's especially important not to touch them during checkout. Ensure your fruits and vegetables bagged, and wash them thoroughly once you get them home.
As your favorite eating establishments reopen, it's important to avoid touching menus, which are rarely cleaned. Don't put a menu on your plate or silverware, and after you've ordered, don't touch your face or start your meal without washing your hands or using a generous squirt of hand sanitizer. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.