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Maintaining healthy habits to protect from illness

As our society gradually returns to a more normal routine and many services begin the process of reopening, maintaining newly formed habits can help to protect us from illness.

According to Martin Chaney, M.D., chief medical officer with Maury Regional Health, the continuation of social distancing and the practicing of good hand and respiratory hygiene are vital components as our society enters the re-opening phase.

“In recent weeks and months, we have all increased awareness about how we interact with others outside our homes. As a result, we have adopted habits that can help protect ourselves and others from getting sick,” said Dr. Chaney. “By maintaining those good habits going forward, we can continue doing our part to reduce illness in our communities.”

Here are a few ways to continue practicing good habits and prevent the spread of illness.

Social distancing

Social distancing means limiting the amount of close contact you have with other people. By keeping space between yourself and others outside of your home, you are helping to reduce the spread of illness, including COVID-19. It is a good rule of thumb to maintain at least six feet between oneself and others when in public in order to protect personal space.

Respiratory hygiene

COVID-19 is believed to mainly spread from person to person, particularly between those who are in close contact with one another. It is possible to spread the illness to other people even if you do not feel sick. Respiratory droplets formed when a person coughs, sneezes or speaks can transmit the virus to surfaces and other people. Always cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, particularly when you are around others. If you do not have on a face covering, use a tissue or the inside of your elbow.

Hand hygiene

Avoid touching your face – eyes, nose and mouth. To protect yourself and others, wash your hands often, especially after being in a public place, using the restroom and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Soap and water is preferred, but when not available, use hand sanitizer. Many people may believe that wearing disposable gloves offers increased protection; however, their use may actually be spreading germs. The surface of gloves can support germs just like skin, but washing gloves is not as effective as washing your hands and can actually compromise the effectiveness of the glove. As a rule, gloves should not be used as a substitute for hand washing.

Wear a mask in public

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cloth face coverings in public settings in order to help slow the spread of respiratory viruses. A face covering can be made in a variety of ways, including sewn or unsewn. Learn how to make your own cloth face covering here. The finished mask should be comfortable but fit snugly against the side of the face. The wearer should be able to breathe without restriction. Masks should be laundered after extended use or when soiled.

Disinfect frequently touched surfaces

COVID-19 can be spread when someone with the virus touches a surface that is later touched by someone else. This can include a doorknob, light switch, toilet handle, phone or other surface. For this reason, the CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. If the surface is dirty, clean first with soap and water, followed by a household disinfectant.

Adhere to guidelines

As more businesses and services re-open and expand their services, it is important to adhere to guidelines that have been set forth to promote good health. Many retailers and other businesses have added directional arrows to their floors to promote one-way aisle traffic and social distancing. Others have limited the number of customers who can be in a store at one time or set aside special shopping hours for older customers and those who are most vulnerable to infection. By following these guidelines, we can all do our part to reduce the spread of illness.

Limit trips

Try to make your purchases in as few trips as possible and limit the number of errands you make each week. Before venturing out, ask yourself if the trip is essential – such as working, seeking medical care or buying medications or groceries – or if it can be combined with another errand.

Limit physical contact with others

Humans are social creatures, so physical connections are important. However, by limiting physical contact with those outside our own home, we can help limit the spread of illness in our community. Avoid gathering in tightly-knit groups, honor the personal space of others and refrain from physical contact, such as hugs and handshakes.

According to Deborah Goldsmith, M.D., a specialist in infectious disease on the medical staff at Maury Regional Medical Center, remaining diligent about these practices will serve us well in the future.

"The current pandemic has made us all more mindful of hygiene practices that we should use on a daily basis to prevent the spread of all viruses,” said Dr. Goldsmith. “Going forward, these new habits will serve us well for future infection prevention, from the current COVID-19 outbreak to flu season.”

Learn more about helping to limit the spread of COVID-19 at