©2018 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved. eMedicineHealth does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See Additional Information.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Prevention Tips

Reviewed on 7/15/2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Prevention Facts

Frequent hand washing is one way to prevent COVID-19 infections.
Frequent hand washing is one way to prevent COVID-19 infections.
  • COVID-19 is a novel (new) type of coronavirus previously unidentified in humans.
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads from person to person, and once it spreads easily within some geographic areas, it is called "community spread."
  • To protect yourself:
    • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
    • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • To protect others:
    • Stay home if you're sick unless you need medical care.
    • Wear a face mask around other people if you are sick.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • The most common symptoms of COVID-19 typically appear 2 to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, repeated bouts of shaking chills, loss of sense of smell (anosmia), and loss of sense of taste (ageusia).
  • In mild cases, most people recover within 10-14 days, however, in severe cases, the disease can be fatal.
  • It is unknown exactly how long people who contract COVID-19 will be contagious.

What Is COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus)?

COVID-19 is not the same as other coronaviruses that cause mild illness, such as the common cold.

The name COVID-19 follows the World Health Organization (WHO) best practice for naming of new human infectious diseases. CO stands for "corona," VI for "virus," D for disease, and 19 for 2019, the year in which the disease was first identified. The disease has also been called "2019 novel coronavirus" or "2019-nCoV."

What Is the Mode of Transmission for COVID-19?

Medical researchers linked early COVID-19 infections to a live animal market in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.

People who are sick with COVID-19 can easily spread the illness to others by coughing or sneezing, which propels small liquid respiratory droplets into the air that contain SARS-CoV-2 and can be inhaled by others. For this reason, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that those infected be isolated either in the hospital or at home until they have recovered.

SARS-CoV-2 can survive for up to 3 days on surfaces. It may be possible for COVID-19 to be transmitted from touching a surface or object that has SARS-CoV-2 on it (for example, if a person sick with COVID-19 has coughed or sneezed on the surface) and then another person touches that surface and then touches his or her mouth, nose, or eyes. However, person-to-person contact is still the main way the virus spreads.

Tips to Prevent COVID-19 Infection

To protect yourself:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap breaks down the virus walls, and it takes at least 20 seconds to do this. Any kind of soap is acceptable.
  • If soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • If you are not sick, you do not need to wear a face mask unless you are caring for a person who is sick and they are unable to wear a face mask themselves.
  • If there is an outbreak in your community, stay at home and limit close contact with others. Try to keep a distance of at least 6 feet from other people.

To protect others:

  • Stay home if you're sick, unless you need medical care.
  • Wear a face mask around other people when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Throw away used tissues. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes countertops, doorknobs, handles, tables, light switches, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Use EPA-registered household disinfectants.

What Should I Do if I'm Infected With COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 typically appear 2-14 days after exposure and include the following:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

The following emergency warning signs require immediate medical attention (call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital's emergency department):

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

Less common signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may include:

Stay home: Most people with mild symptoms can recover on their own at home with measures usually taken for colds, such as getting adequate rest and staying hydrated. Over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines to relieve symptoms may be all that is needed. Vitamin C and zinc are often touted to help boost immunity. While they do not cure COVID-19, getting adequate amounts of these nutrients can't hurt. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements. Avoid ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as these may worsen symptoms in people with COVID-19 illness. Do not visit other people, go to public areas, or use public transportation.

Call your doctor: Unless it is an emergency, call your doctor before seeking medical care, and do not leave home except to get medical care. If you have a doctor's appointment, call ahead to tell them you suspect you may have COVID-19 so they can prepare for your arrival or advise you to seek emergency care at a hospital. People who are ill should wear face masks if they leave home.

Home isolation: Self-quarantine and separate yourself from others in your home. If you can designate a spare room and separate bathroom for use, do so. Do not share dishes, cups, utensils, towels, or other bedding with household members. Restrict contact with other people in your home as much as possible.

Limit contact with your pets: Though there are no reports of pets and other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, the CDC recommends that people who are sick limit their contact with pets and other animals until more information is known. If you must care for your pet, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after interaction.

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. The flu and pneumococcus (pneumonia) vaccines do not protect against coronaviruses. However, both the CDC and WHO recommend vaccination against these other respiratory illnesses to protect your health.

How Long Are People With COVID-19 Infections Contagious?

The average incubation period of the illness (the period from exposure to developing symptoms) is 2-14 days. The duration of the illness once a person becomes sick varies depending on whether symptoms are mild or severe. In severe cases, COVID-19 can be fatal.

It is still unknown exactly how long people who contract COVID-19 will be contagious. In mild cases, most people recover within 10-14 days. However, some people have been positive for 30 days or more.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Reviewed on 7/15/2020
References
American College of Gastroenterology. "COVID-19 Pandemic: How Will This Affect Your Care and What to Ask Your Gastrointestinal (GI) Doctor." Mar. 23, 2020. <https://webfiles.gi.org/links/patients/General_GI_COVID19_Patient_Care_Cmte_Handout_FINAL_03232020.pdf>.

Lanese, Nicoletta. "Coronavirus may be most infectious when symptoms are mildest, small study finds." Mar. 11, 2020. <https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-sheds-early-in-disease.html>.

Switzerland. World Health Organization. "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic." Mar. 25, 2020. <https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Coronavirus (COVID-19)." Mar. 20, 2020. <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html>.
CONTINUE SCROLLING FOR RELATED SLIDESHOW