As COVID-19 spreads throughout the world, there are a lot of unknowns. Here are some basic, easy ways to lower your family's chances of getting the coronavirus.

By Nicole Harris
Updated September 22, 2020
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Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and's COVID-19 Guide for up-to-date information on statistics, disease spread, and travel advisories.

If you’re a parent, you’re probably glued to news coverage of the coronavirus (and the disease it causes, COVID-19). It has spread to nearly every country, sickened more than 31 million people, and caused at least 965,600 deaths. There’s also been more than 6.8 million confirmed cases and 200,100 deaths in America. 

It’s natural for parents to worry but, fortunately, experts say your child has a lower chance of contracting the coronavirus by practicing safety precautions—which is why masks and social distancing are so important. If your kid does develop the coronavirus, it probably won’t be severe or life-threatening. Confirmed cases in children tend to have mild symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, severe complications are possible—especially for individuals who are immunocompromised or with underlying medical conditions.

Even so, it’s important to be prepared. Here are seven ways to lower your family's chances of getting the coronavirus.

Practice social distancing.

The coronavirus is a respiratory illness like the cold or flu. Contaminated droplets from coughs or sneezes can travel up to six feet, and they can infect people by entering their eyes, nose, or mouth. New reports also suggest that airborne transmission may be possible through breathing and exhaling. This is especially scary considering that COVID-19 may be asymptomatic, and it can also spread before people show any symptoms, according to the CDC. It's vital to practice social distancing standards set in place by the government. Stay at least six feet away from others, and avoid high-traffic places where transmission is more likely. 

Be cautious in public places.

Despite social distancing orders, most people still go out for essential purposes like grocery shopping. Make sure to take all necessary precautions. For example, you can wipe the grocery cart handle with a disinfectant wipe and avoid direct contact with cashiers. Read more about grocery shopping during a pandemic here.

Wear a mask.

The CDC suggests wearing a cloth face mask "in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission." Always wear a mask in public if you don't feel well, since the barrier could block your infected droplets from contaminating others. It's also important to wear a mask if you're at a higher risk for serious cases of COVID-19 (for example, if you're older than 65 or have a compromised immune system, though masks are not recommended for children under 2). Opt for cloth or paper masks over N95 respirator masks, which should be reserved for health care workers.

Disinfect your home and belongings.

According to a March 2020 study from National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA, and Princeton University scientists, the coronavirus may be able to survive for three hours in the air, four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard, and two to three days on stainless steel and plastic. That's why it's important to sanitize key things in your home—such as your countertops after placing grocery bags on them—to lower your chances of getting the coronavirus. Check out this list of other things to clean ASAP to prevent getting sick.

Teach your kids not to touch their faces.

If bacteria-ridden droplets get into a child’s nose or mouth, they can become sick with the disease, says Miryam Wahrman, Ph.D., biology professor and director of the microbiology research lab at William Paterson University and author of The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World. Encourage your kids to avoid touching their faces in public.

Make sure kids wash their hands

The best way to lower your chances of getting the coronavirus is practicing proper hand hygiene, so teach your kids how to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Make sure they clean up before eating, whenever you return from being in public, and before touching their eyes, nose, and mouth. You can also use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in a pinch, according to Dr. Wahrman. (Hand sanitizer has sold out in many places, though. Check out our guide for making your own kid-friendly version).

Use caution when traveling.

The White House temporarily banned all travel from Europe, and the CDC now recommends avoiding all nonessential international travel. Check out the latest guidelines and recommendations, and use your discretion before embarking on a trip. You'll need to weigh the benefits against the risk, says Dr. Wahrman. If you do travel by plane, avoid people who look sick, wash your hands often, and disinfect communal items like tray tables.

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