The novel coronavirus has certainly impacted how we go about our daily lives. Instead of venturing out to the supermarket on a whim, shopping trips now have to be carefully planned and masks need to be worn. Rather than commute to the office every day, many of us are working from home full-time or may be furloughed until industries reopen. And although your children might have become accustomed to spending most of the day in a classroom with their friends and teachers, they now have to adjust to learning through a computer screen.
It certainly hasn’t been easy for any of us. And of course, the threat of COVID-19 itself is enough to scare anyone. Even in healthy individuals, this virus can do a lot of damage. And in vulnerable individuals, contraction can result in hospitalizations or even fatalities. Thus far, U.S. coronavirus deaths have now topped 85,000. It’s likely that that toll will continue to increase, especially as states reopen and the warning of an even worse second wave looms over the nation.
Of course, we can’t live our lives in total fear of the unknown. But preparation and information are key in fighting the pandemic. As long as we follow federal and local ordinances, practice social distancing, and minimize necessary contact with others, we can continue to flatten the curve.
A big part of embracing the best healthy habits during COVID-19 is continuing to stay home as much as possible, even as businesses start to reopen. And if you’re going to be remaining inside anyway, it’s as good a time as any to focus on your family’s health. Even if you only venture outside to go to the grocery store once a week and don’t have much interaction with others, you’ll want to incorporate the best healthy habits into your stay-home routine. Here’s how you can prioritize the health and well-being of your family at home during quarantine.
Wash Clothes, Towels, and Linens Frequently
Experts can’t agree on exactly how long the coronavirus can survive on clothing. The virus can survive on metal and plastic for up to a few days, but textiles aren’t likely to be conducive to its spread. Still, you can never be too careful. If you’ve been around someone showing any kind of symptoms associated with the virus or you were close to someone at the grocery store who then coughed or sneezed around you, it’s a good idea to wash your clothes as soon as possible and to take precautions when doing so.
It’s also a good idea to keep up with your other laundry, like bathroom towels, bed linens, and even washable rugs throughout your home. Germs can spread quickly with fabric that tends to be closer to the face. While it might have been fine to wash your pillowcases, sheets, and duvet covers once every two weeks before the pandemic hit, some experts now recommend that you wash your own linens and any nursery bedding twice per week. Others say it’s best to focus on washing yourself frequently, rather than having to do laundry on a constant basis. We’ll talk about that next.
Wash Your Hands and Shower Often
Under normal circumstances, the best healthy habits typically involve practicing excellent hygiene. But regular bathing becomes even more important during a pandemic. In other words, you might end up using your bathtub & shower installation a lot more frequently. While some medical experts caution that you should shower at least every other day, if not each day, others say that it probably isn’t necessary to take a shower as soon as you return home from the grocery store or the pharmacy.
Hand-washing should be done even more frequently, of course. Washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is recommended, but the use of hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is also acceptable. You should avoid touching your face with unwashed hands and you should wash your hands after being in any public place and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. Get the whole family in on the habit and continue to wash hands at home on a regular basis.
Vacuum and Disinfect Frequently-Touched Surfaces
In addition to washing your body and clothes, you’ll also need to scrub down surfaces and items within your home. And since it’s not recommended to have a house cleaning service come in during this time, you’ll be responsible for this task on your own.
Kitchens and bathrooms tend to be hot spots for germs, so you’ll want to focus most of your efforts in these spaces. In addition to cleaning countertops and vanities, be sure to disinfect cabinet and drawer pulls and appliances. Throughout your home, you’ll want to focus on light switches, doorknobs, remote controls, toys (and other items like your child’s favorite baby sippy cup), computer keyboards and mice, cell phones, and staircase railings. You can use EPA-recommended cleaning products or make your own bleach solution for this purpose. The CDC recommends mixing one-third cup bleach per every gallon of water or four tablespoons of bleach per every quart of water. You’ll need to mix up a fresh batch each time you clean, as it will lose its potency after a day or two.
Don’t forget about the floors, either. One of the best healthy habits you can follow is to discontinue wearing shoes inside your home, as footwear can track in both dirt and germs. If you have hardwood floors, you can use a microfiber mop or a floor bristle brush attachment on your vacuum to clean. To disinfect, you should use a damp mop and specialized cleaner. Although a water and vinegar solution is recommended for vinyl or laminate flooring under normal circumstances, keep in mind that vinegar is not an effective disinfectant for COVID-19. Look for a cleaning agent that’s meant to kill bacteria or a diluted bleach solution. For those with wall-to-wall carpeting, opt for daily or weekly vacuuming to prioritize proper carpet cleaning. It’s harder to disinfect carpeting, but a home carpet steamer can do the trick.
Improve Your Home’s Air Quality
Focusing on disinfecting and cleaning isn’t the only way to improve your experience at home. You may also want to pay attention to air quality — particularly because allergy season is upon us. In addition, the people who are most vulnerable to developing complications from COVID-19 are also the groups that need the highest possible air quality in their homes. Improving your home’s air quality is a great way to prevent the spread of any type of illness and minimize respiratory issues like asthma.
Other than dusting and vacuuming regularly, you can improve your indoor air quality by changing out your residential HVAC filters. Since your HVAC filter is what keeps contaminants and allergens from circulating throughout your home, a clogged filter is a big problem. Clogged filters can also make your HVAC system work a lot harder than necessary, which means you’ll end up paying more each month for your increased energy usage. You should replace your filter at least once every three months, though some experts recommend doing so once a month. If a filter looks dirty, you’ll want to replace it right away. While it might seem like a small home improvement, this will be one of the best healthy habits you can adopt during the pandemic and beyond.
Focus on Dental Care
Although we’ve covered quite a bit of what you can do to improve your surroundings, there are also things you can do to safeguard your health during this crisis. While scheduling an annual checkup is really out of the question right now, you can increase your family’s emphasis on at-home care — especially when it comes to your teeth.
Dental care is a huge part of overall health, which means you shouldn’t neglect brushing and flossing. Plaque starts to turn into tartar within 24 to 72 hours, after all. The last thing you’ll want to deal with during quarantine is a cavity! Be sure every family member brushes and flosses thoroughly at least twice per day. Switching to an electric toothbrush can also improve your oral health. Proper hydration and limitation of sweet snacks can also give your oral health some longevity. These are some of the best healthy habits at any time, but you’ll really want to keep them in mind right now. Unless it’s a true dental emergency, you won’t want to make a trip to the dentist’s office.
Embrace a Plant-Based Diet
Another good way to prioritize your personal health is to maintain a nutritious diet and embrace the idea of eating less meat. One of the side effects of the pandemic is that the nation will likely be facing meat shortages. Many meat processing plants have been faced with the threat of COVID-19 infections; in some cases, confirmed cases have caused these plants to shut down entirely. As a result, your grocery store may not have the selection of meat and poultry that you’re used to. And even if they do have what you normally look for, you might be nervous about bringing it home with you.
This is actually a good time to try out some plant based proteins or vegetarian dishes your family will love. Diets that are rich in plants have been known to increase immunity and even increase lifespan, so U.S. meat shortages provide a great excuse to try going meatless at least a couple of times per week. And with so many excellent meatless alternatives now on the market, you probably won’t feel like you’re missing much. Remember that the best healthy habits include consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, so support your local farmers when possible and buy what’s in season. As long as you wash off your produce properly before consuming, this is an excellent way to improve your health during this time.
Fit in Some Fitness
Of course, you already know that the best healthy habits include regular exercise. You might feel frustrated that your gym is closed or that playgrounds have been blocked off due to the coronavirus. But these aren’t the only ways your family can squeeze in some physical activity. Take walks around the neighborhood, put together a backyard obstacle course, or roll out the yoga mat in the living room for a bit of fitness that everyone can enjoy. Provided you practice social distancing (and wear a mask if you decide to go out for a run), these activities are perfectly safe — and are recommended for your personal health.
It’s not just about weight maintenance, either. Exercise releases endorphins and reduces hormones related to stress, which is crucial during these uncertain times. If you’re struggling mentally or feeling emotionally overwhelmed, getting a good workout can be one of the best healthy habits you can adopt. While it’s going to be a bit more difficult and you may not like that your regular routine has been disrupted, this can be a good way to maintain a sense of balance. You’ll have more energy and will sleep better, as well, which can improve your health in other ways.
Most of us already know that staying home is one of the best healthy habits we can embrace during the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean your home is automatically the healthiest place to be. You’ll need to devote some time and effort to ensure your home is truly clean and disinfected — and that you and your kids are doing everything possible to prioritize your personal health — right now, too. By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be able to feel safe at home and know that your loved ones are doing everything possible to alleviate the need for emergency medical care.