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3 Easy Ways to Virus-Proof Your Next Outing


From avoiding germs in public restrooms to giving yourself even more peace of mind when you head to the supermarket, our experts share easy ways to sidestep the COVID-19 virus (and other nasty bugs!) everywhere you go.

In public bathrooms: Wait a minute.

If it was occupied right before you, wait 60 seconds before entering a stall, advises Charles P. Gerba, Ph.D., a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. New research reveals that every time a toilet flushes without a closed lid, it spews a plume of microscopic droplets — with 40 to 60 percent spraying up to three-and-a-half feet into the air — where they linger for about a minute. The good news: “Most restrooms have ventilation fans, so the air changes over fairly quickly,” assures Gerba. And that means a one-minute delay is all you need to let the plume go poof and avoid a close encounter with a virus.

ALSO SMART: After you wash up, skip the hand dryer — which has been shown to blow bacteria from the air onto your skin — and opt for good old-fashioned paper hand towels instead.

In the supermarket: Stop here last.

When you go to the grocery store, visit “high touch” areas — like the produce aisle and the door to the milk section — at the end of your trip. This reduces the amount of time you spend in the store after being in the most heavily trafficked areas before you can return home and wash your hands, which, experts agree, is the best way to protect yourself from any virus.

ALSO SMART: Go low-tech with your shopping list. “Instead of using your smartphone — which is a huge germ magnet — just get out a pen and paper and jot down all the items you need,” advises Eliza Savage, R.D., author of Health Through Nutrition (Buy on Amazon $21.99). “Then simply discard or recycle the paper list when you leave the store.”

In restaurants: Browse before you go.

When scientists measured levels of microbes in restaurants, they pinpointed the top germ hot spot: menus. That’s because they’re handled by hundreds of people yet rarely cleaned, so viruses and bacteria cling to them. The simple solution: “Just read the menu online and decide what you want before you leave the house,” says Savage.

ALSO SMART: When determining the safest seat while dining indoors, ask for a table away from the entrance or restroom: Avoiding high-traffic areas will give you peace of mind and keep you safer.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First for Women.

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