19 Social Practices and Behaviors that Spread COVID-19

COVID-19, meaning the novel Coronavirus Disease of 2019, and counting, has taken the world by surprise and turned lives upside down in a matter of weeks. The now-pandemic has compellingly enforced healthy behaviors such as more frequent hand washing and proper hand washing, as well as rewritten social norms by introducing social distancing as the only approved form of social interaction. While not exactly welcomed, many of the new norms and recommendations are effective at reducing infection risks and actually help save lives, albeit at the cost of healthy interpersonal relationships and our cracked, dry hands, among other side effects. But seeing that we might expect a comeback of COVID-19 this fall, according to epidemiologists, there’s a pressing need for us to up our hygiene game. With this in mind, here are 19 social practices and other behaviors that, if we dropped for a while, could prove of real help in preventing or at least reducing COVID-19 infections:

  • (1) Cheek kissing

After this quarantine ends, we get to go back to a quasi-normal lifestyle (hooray!). But seeing that COVID-19 is here to stay for a while, there will be some recommendations as to how we interact with each other post-quarantine. One aspect of social interaction we could and should refrain from is cheek kissing. While it’s a time-honored greeting in many parts of the world, and a show of affection between friends and family, it contributes to the spread of infectious agents, including COVID-19.

Ways COVID-19 spreads

  • (2) Hand kissing

Hand kissing is one of the best ways to spread infection, whether COVID-19, Herpes simplex, a flu virus or another pathogen. This is especially true for small children who tend to put their hands in their mouth all the time, successfully ingesting any and all germs that made their way on their hands. Whether it’s the current COVID-19 pandemic, this fall’s flu epidemic, the joint COVID-19 and flu epidemic predicted for this fall and winter or another bug going around at one point or another in time, hand kissing is a foolproof way to spread germs and infection, hence the reason it has go.

  • (3) Hand shaking

In the Western world, there’s no better way to show respect or greet someone in a formal setting than by shaking hands. But given the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time we take a lesson in courtesy from fellow Asian cultures who use bowing as a formal greeting and gesture of respect. Bowing is also done from a distance to avoid bumping heads, making it a great way to greet someone whilst minimizing the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

  • (4) Hugging

It goes without saying that social distancing is the golden rule right now, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. While it’s okay to hug your spouse or your kids or other family members or friends you’re quarantined with, and thus living in closed quarters with, it’s important to avoid hugging anyone else. Instead, opt for communicating your feelings. While often more difficult than a heartfelt hug, verbalizing what you’re feeling can be just as rewarding and convey just as much emotion and concise meaning as a hug.

COVID-19 spread

  • (5) Fist bumping

You’d think that because it’s done with the back of the hand and you wash your hands anyway, it’s okay to fist bump during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, even if it’s just the knuckles that touch and you do wash your hands, in the name of social distancing, fist bumping is best put to rest for the time being. Instead, you can foot-bump! You’re leaving your shoes at the door anyway.

  • (6) Nose picking

Nose-picking is not just something kids do. Adults pick their nose all the time. Even if just to calm an itch. For example, you are most likely to see someone pick their nose in traffic, while at the wheel. Even though a person may wash their hands thoroughly prior to this, and thus reduce risks of infection to themselves, they won’t likely wash their hands right afterwards and thus risk spreading something like COVID-19 to others via the surfaces or objects they touch after picking their nose. If there’s an itch, wash or disinfect your hands, then grab your nose between your middle and index finger and big finger and rub. For everything else, use a disposable handkerchief.

  • (7) Biting your nails

Nail biting is a common coping mechanism that occurs in response to stress, anxiety, nervousness or other emotions one has poor control over. It’s also a tic that accompanies a person in many aspects of daily life, activating imperceptibly in the background. But it’s also a sure way to introduce germs into your mouth. Conscious or not, it’s one of those behaviors that we’re better off dropping not just during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • (8) Playing with your hair

Playing with your hair doesn’t serve any real purpose, but is a common tic. It can be conscious, done on purpose, or unconscious, such as a coping mechanism set off by anxiety, stress, shyness etc. Whatever its trigger, it’s a good idea to make a conscious effort to try and drop this habit because touching your face for whatever reason means a higher chance of bringing germs such as the novel Coronavirus close to the nose, mouth and eyes which facilitates infection.

  • (9) Rubbing your eyes

When you’re sleepy or your eyes hurt because of a bright light or, on the contrary, not enough light, or they itch because of dust or allergies, the first instinct is to touch your face and rub your eyes. Whenever you feel like doing it, remember it brings microbes close to your eyes and increases chances of spreading an infection.

  • (10) Fixing lipstick with your fingers

While there’s no need to give up makeup during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to minimize contact between your hands and face. An important habit to drop is fixing your lipstick with your fingers because it’s a sure way to bring germs to the main point of entry, the mouth, almost surely leading to an infection.

  • (11) Touching your face

Whether it’s to put on your glasses, take them off or fix them to see better, put your hand to your mouth to cover your smile or in response to surprising news, cover your mouth with the palm of your hand when you yawn, sneeze or cough or any other reason, touching your face is a big no-no during the COVID-19 pandemic and also the seasonal flu and cold epidemics and more. To reduce infection risks, try to avoid touching your face to the best of your efforts and make sure your hands are washed before doing so. If possible, substitute one habit for a safer one. For example, you and others are better off if you cough into your elbow.

  • (12) Licking fingers to turn pages

There’s no real measure of this habit, but it’s safe to say almost everybody has see somebody lick their fingers to turn pages at least once in their life. In addition to bringing germs like the novel Coronavirus straight into your own mouth with this habit, you’re also transferring it to a surface others might also touch. Resist this habit to the best of your efforts and, instead, opt for wetting the tip of your clean fingers on a just as clean wet sponge.

  • (13) Licking fingers when paying cash

On par with licking fingers to better turn pages is licking fingers when paying cash. This is a sure way to bring germs straight to your mouth and start an infection, whether COVID-19, the flu, a bacterial infection and so on. To minimize risks to your health, it’s recommended to use a card or at least wash your hands really well after using cash, but never ever lick your fingers.

  • (14) Putting your bag on the ground

Handbags, school bags, shopping bags and any other kind of bag should never be on the ground, COVID-19 or not. You’re likely bringing said bag into your home, putting it on a chair, on the bed or on the kitchen counter and, with it, everything it touched outside the home. While on public transportation, keep your bag in your lap. At work, place it on a chair or your desk. But never on the ground. If possible, disinfect the bottom of the bag or the whole bag with as soon as your bring it inside.

  • (15) Outside shoes in the house

Some people say they never do this. Some say they do. But COVID-19 or not, it’s best to never walk with outside shoes in the house. As soon as you come in the door, take your outside shoes off in a designated area and change into slippers or a pair of shoes reserved only for the inside of your home. Or just stay in your socks. It’s a good idea to also disinfect the soles of the outside shoes with chlorine diluted with water for extra protection against COVID-19.

  • (16) Not disinfecting your phone

In this day and age, your phone is always with you, whether you’re using it or not. But given the current pandemic, its use can expose you to health risks such as a COVID-19 infection. There are people using gloves, but handling their phone after they’ve touched doorknobs, money, various surfaces and objects that others have come into contact with. After removing their gloves, they handle their phone which almost makes the use of the gloves pointless. When out and about and protecting yourself with gloves, avoid using your phone unless there is an emergency. After finishing up what you were doing, remove the gloves safely and then use your phone. After you get home or anywhere you have access to disinfectant, disinfect your hands and phone to reduce infection risks. Remember that your phone goes everywhere with you – to bed, to the bathroom, to work, to the doctor’s, to the pharmacy, food store etc. which makes regular disinfection mandatory.

  • (17) Not disinfecting your keys

Keys are something you touch all the time, whether you’re locking or unlocking doors, starting the car, moving them from a counter or table in your home to a pocket or bag. Keys are always touching your hands or sitting next to your phone, paper handkerchiefs, tissues, wipes or anything you may be carrying with you when you’re out and about and likely using daily. And they’re always falling on the ground. A generous disinfection once or several times a day is one of the best measures to take against COVID-19.

  • (18) Sharing and shared objects

While sharing is caring, the current pandemic is not the best time to share many things. Sharing can spread both joy and COVID-19. Whether it’s a pen or your phone for a quick call or a toy, remember you can get it back with something extra, so disinfect what you can and avoid sharing what you can’t disinfect. Watch out for shared objects such as tea and coffee cup lids left out on a table at the coffee shop for everyone to touch, sugar packets and coffee stirrers such as plastic or wooden coffee sticks placed in a common holder, unwrapped donuts or bagels sitting in the open, not even behind a glass. Small things can make the biggest difference.

  • (19) Wearing jewelry

Wearing jewelry is a form of expression, but jewelry can often trap and spread infectious agents. Rings, bracelets and watches are the first to spread infection because we use our hands the most and they interact with surfaces and objects that others have inevitably touched. Hand jewelry also tears and rips into disposable plastic gloves, increasing risks of infection. Not to mention people don’t typically disinfect their jewelry for fear of ruining it. Then there’s necklaces, earrings and headbands which people tend to adjust all the time, but again, not disinfect regularly. If you do choose to wear jewelry, it’s a good idea to disinfect it which should help stop the spread of COVID-19, along with proper and frequent hand washing, sneezing and coughing into your elbow, not hand, wearing gloves and face masks and other recommended protective measures.

This post was updated on Saturday / August 15th, 2020 at 9:57 PM