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30 Ways You Might Catch COVID

This essential list can safe your life, and the lives of others.

No one is for certain immune to COVID-19. But that doesn't mean you're powerless. There are definite things you can do—and not do—to slow the spread and protect people who are most vulnerable. Here's what experts say are some of the most common health mistakes that can cause coronavirus. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


Not Taking It Seriously

Photo of a young white man with medical face mask looking out of the window during coronavirus quarantine. Reflection of his face in the window.

This is no hoax. The coronavirus pandemic is a real thing, no matter where you live. People of all ages can become seriously ill with COVID-19, and you can spread it even without developing symptoms. Follow all official recommendations about social distancing and good hygiene practices to reduce the spread.


Not Washing Your Hands

Mid section of senior man washing hands in the kitchen

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times—and it's worth hearing again. The best way to prevent coronavirus and other communicable diseases is to wash your hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cleaning your hands often each day, particularly if you've been in a public place.


Not Washing Your Hands Long Enough

Analogue metal stopwatch close-up on the black background.

Remember: A simple rinse won't cut it. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, the CDC says, or if water isn't available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 


Sneezing Openly

woman sneezing with spray and small drops

Coronavirus is mainly spread by respiratory droplets, which are produced whenever we sneeze. If you feel one coming on, tuck your nose and mouth into the crook of your elbow. Don't sneeze into your hand; it could spread germs.


Not Covering Your Coughs

male coughs in his elbow

Likewise, a cough can transmit disease-carrying droplets; always cover your mouth (ideally with your arm instead of your bare hand). 

RELATED: 11 Signs You've Already Had COVID-19


Touching Your Face

Don't Touch Your Face. Girl wearing surgical mask rubbing her eye with dirty hands, working on laptop

Experts say this is the most likely path of coronavirus transmission—you touch something or someone who has the virus, then touch your face, where the virus can infect your eyes, nose or mouth. Hands off! If you're a frequent face-toucher—and studies show most of us touch our faces up to a dozen times an hour—wash your hands frequently, and you might even want to wear gloves in public to break yourself of the habit.


Not Social Distancing

woman traveler wearing face protection in the prevention of coronavirus.

You can still go outside—just maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and another person. Why six feet? That's the distance experts believe the virus can travel from someone who's sneezed or coughed and infect others.


Touching Public Surfaces

healthy foods weight loss woman pushes grocery cart in store

The experts' best estimate, at this point, is that coronavirus can survive on surfaces for days. In addition to limiting your trips to the most essential, bring hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes along, and wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you return home.


Being in Crowds

young woman wearing a hygiene protective mask over her face while walking at the crowded place

Don't wait for officials to ban large gatherings in your area, if they haven't already. The best course is to avoid big groups for the time being.


Going Out to Bars

waitress with a face mask in a bar.

Bars are the absolute worst places you could go, as crowds congregate indoors—bad enough—and alcohol helps patrons forget social distancing and hygiene rules.


Visiting Older People

Sick woman isolated facing COVID-19. Corona virus wearing mask protection and recovery from the illness at home

It's difficult not to maintain a regular visit with a loved one, but the CDC and other experts recommend that younger people avoid in-person visits with seniors at the moment. Our immune systems weaken as we age, making older people more susceptible to COVID-19. In-person visits are best done over phone or webcam for now. 


Not Staying Home If You're Sick

woman coughing in medical mask on her face

If you're not well, stay away from public places unless you absolutely must go out for essential food or medical care. 


Going to an ER If You're Not Severely Ill

Portrait of asian woman doctor wear protection face mask showing a patient some information on digital tablet clip board, patient listen to specialist doctor in clinic office

If you suspect you have COVID-19, experts recommend only going to a doctor's office, urgent care or emergency room if you're having trouble breathing. If you're having milder symptoms, call your doctor or a telemedicine provider for advice. The issue is, if you go to an ER with mild symptoms but nothing that needs treating in the hospital, you could infect others.


Not Self-Quarantining

Young woman spending free time home.Self care,staying home

If you think you've been exposed to coronavirus, it's important to self-quarantine for 14 days to ensure you're not infected (or as long as experts or your healthcare provider recommends).


Not Self-Isolating

Senior man at home wearing protection mask

If you're infected with coronavirus, it's important to a) stay home; and b) separate yourself from other people in your house. Use a separate bedroom and bathroom and wear a mask if possible, and don't share dishes, bedding or towels until you're recovered.


Wearing Your Face Mask Wrong

Woman with medical mask sitting

Congrats on buying a face mask, but if you're wearing yours under your nose, around your neck or not at all (in protest), you're spreading the virus and making yourself vulnerable.


Shaking Hands

two businessman handshaking process

It's time to suspend this common courtesy for the moment. Substitute a wave instead.


Hugging a Friend

Two female friends embracing each other at home

Like handshakes, these are out for now. 


Taking a Trip

Woman packing for vacation travel trying to close full suitcase

Especially if you're over age 60 or are immunocompromised, the CDC recommends avoiding all non-essential travel.  

RELATED: COVID Mistakes You Should Never Make


Going Out Before You've Recovered

woman is looking at the thermometer. She has fever

If you've had COVID-19, the CDC says you shouldn't leave home until three things have happened: You've had no fever for at least 72 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medicines; other symptoms like cough and shortness of breath have improved; and if at least seven days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.


Blowing Your Nose in Public

Senior woman in jacket suffering from cold in park

Blowing your nose into a tissue still runs the risk of dispersing germs. If you need to blow your nose, do it in private, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.


Not Sanitizing Your Cell Phone


Our cell phones can serve as mobile germ repositories—some studies show they can be up to seven times dirtier than a toilet seat. Sanitize your phone with a disinfectant wipe once a day.


Picking Your Nose

man is emotionally picking his nose

Like watching Big Bang Theory reruns, it's something we all do but none of us admit: Nose-picking. In fact, one study found that 95 percent of people do it. If there ever were a time to break yourself from the habit, now is it.


Rubbing Your Eyes

Close up black african man taking off glasses feels unhealthy suffering from eye strain after long working on computer

Springtime can bring seasonal allergies and itchy, watery eyes. Unfortunately, rubbing your eyes can also cause you to contract coronavirus if you have the bug on your hands. Use eye drops and allergy medication to keep your eyes itch-free, and if you must rub your eyes, do it with a tissue.


Not Wearing a Face Mask If You're Sick

Woman with cold and sneezing

The CDC doesn't recommend that healthy people wear face masks, but it does advise you do so if you're sick. A mask will prevent droplets from coughs and sneezes from spreading. 


Not Disinfecting Frequently Touched Surfaces

Opening door knob

The CDC advises doing this daily, including "tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks." Most EPA registered products will work, the agency says. 


Thinking It Can't Happen to You

Young friends having barbecue picnic in the nature, playing guitar, playing badminton, enjoying sunny summer day outdoor

The coronavirus was originally described as a serious disease for older people. But people from their teens to forties are becoming ill, some seriously and needing hospitalization. Everyone is susceptible—and capable of passing the virus to someone else—and everyone should follow recommendations to stop the spread. 


Not Considering Your Age

man wear mask and get a cold and cough outdoor

You might be extremely healthy, but if you're over 60, you have a greater chance of experiencing coronavirus complications. 


Not Considering Underlying Conditions

Asmathic girl catching inhaler having an asthma attack

Conditions such as lung diseases, asthma, diabetes, heart disease or a compromised immune system can make you more likely to have complications from coronavirus. Take special care to practice preventative measures.


Visiting People With Compromised Immune Systems

Family dinner

If you know someone with lowered immunity, it's especially important to avoid in-person visits for now. You can transmit coronavirus even if you're not showing symptoms.

As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael