Coronavirus: Dos and Don'ts to Protect Yourself

I’m a registered nurse who specializes in infection prevention. I have heard every question you can imagine about coronavirus over the last few weeks. So I’m going to tell you what you need to know to actively protect yourself.

Don’t panic! We really mean it when we say that. It’s true that the seasonal flu kills more people every winter than coronavirus ever would at its current rate. It’s also true that most people who contract coronavirus will have relatively mild symptoms that they can manage well at home. However, with that said, we also know that those with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions are more susceptible to coronavirus. For those folks, be extra diligent about protecting yourself.

Do follow common-sense precautions. I know you’ve heard it all before, but I will say it again! Wash your hands frequently (soap and warm water is better than hand sanitizer), sneeze into the crook of your elbow (or better yet, into a tissue that you then dispose of) and avoid touching your face.

Do stay home if you’re sick. If you’re feeling sick, chances are that it’s something other than coronavirus. But this directive applies to all of those bugs and viruses that spread in our communities this time of year. Stay home, rest up and protect yourself and others from coronavirus or other illnesses.

Don’t rush out to buy a facemask. Here’s the thing: Facemasks are most effectively used by sick people to stop them from spreading germs and droplets. They’re not really meant to be worn by healthy people as they go about their lives. If you go to a doctor’s office or hospital with flu-like symptoms, your caregivers may ask you to put on a facemask as a precaution. That’s an important part of containing the spread of illness – but it doesn’t mean everyone, everywhere, needs to put on a facemask.

Do familiarize yourself with coronavirus symptoms. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that actually are pretty common, but this current version COVID 19 has emerged as a new global threat. The symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat and trouble breathing. If you have those symptoms, especially if you’ve recently traveled to high-impact areas, call your doctor’s office, urgent care center or hospital emergency department. Calling ahead is very important so the medical team can prepare to care for you while also protecting others.

Don’t get your information from social media. Facebook may be great for entertainment or connecting with friends, but social media sites aren’t known for reliable, science-based health information. The best source is a medical professional or reliable website like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Please let your online surfing take you there rather than social media.

Do stay calm and know that our healthcare facilities are here for you. We have well-defined emergency plans for all kinds of scenarios including this one! My fellow nurses, physicians and other members of the care team have trained and drilled to care for patients and prevent the spread of this virus. We’re prepared to care when you need us.

Shannon Davila, RN, MSN, is the director of the Institute for Quality and Patient Safety at NJHA.

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Shannon Davila, RN, MSN, is the director of the Institute for Quality and Patient Safety at NJHA. She leads clinical improvement programs under the Partnership for Patients initiative. An infection prevention specialist, Davila was named a 2016 Hero of Infection Prevention by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

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