We are all taking extra precautions these days to stay on the safe side and avoid contracting the novel coronavirus. But even though we are trying to limit our interactions with other people and spend as less time as possible in crowded, public areas, we still need to take the occasional trips to the supermarket, doctor’s office or pharmacy. This means we have to use our cars. “COVID-19 has created significant changes in our daily lives. Even simple things, like driving to the store, need to be done differently now than you did just a few months ago,” says Seema Sarin, MD, director of lifestyle medicine at EHE Health.
Opening the car door, adjusting the mirrors, buckling your seatbelt and touching the steering wheel might seem normal actions. But is there anything normal anymore amid the coronavirus pandemic? While you might see nothing wrong with touching things in your car, you might be making these seven dangerous mistakes that increase your risk of contracting SARS-COV-2.
You’re taking your face mask off
Wearing face masks outdoors has become as routine as wearing clothes, especially since the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) said they can help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. We know we have to wear them in public places but what happens when we are alone in the car? Can we take them off?
“When you get in your car, you are brining germs in and out of it from every place you’ve stepped into and from every surface you’ve touched,” says emergency physician Geoffrey Mount Varner, MD, MPH. And that includes your face mask. “If you can help it, keep your mask on in the car,” Varner says. “But if you must remove it before you get home, have a container to keep it in so that it does not touch your car’s interior.” For more mask related information, check out 4 Places Where You Should Not Be Wearing a Face Mask!
You’re keeping your gloves on
Sure, gloves are useful in preventing you from touching potentially contaminated surfaces. But you are still touching them with your gloves, which means you can pick up the virus on them and track it back into your car.
“If you choose to wear gloves, please discard them before getting back into your vehicle,” urges paramedic Mike Gnitecki. “I see people get back into their car with their gloves still on, which entirely defeats the purpose of using them in the first place.” Your used gloves, like any other personal protective equipment (PPE), should be thrown in a trash bin, not left lying around in your car.
You’re not using hand sanitizer
After you take off your gloves and throw them away, don’t forget to clean and disinfect your hands, even if you didn’t directly touch anything. The CDC has continuously emphasized the importance of washing our hands, but in a car, this is not really an option. Therefore, if you don’t have access to water and soap as soon as you’ve left a public place such as the grocery store, the next best thing you can do is use a hand sanitizer.
“Not washing your hands with soap and water, wipes, alcohol sanitizer, or alcohol wipes prior to touching anything in your car has to be the number one mistake,” says Enchanta Jenkins, MD, MHA. Use hand-sanitizer whenever you get inside your car after finishing your errands, no matter how quick these might be.
You’re not sanitizing your keys
Keys are made of stainless steel. Studies suggest that stainless steel surfaces are the most conducive for the virus, as it can survive on such surfaces for up to 2-3 days. Unfortunately, many people don’t sanitize their keys at all. “People may be sanitizing their hands and wearing masks, but sometimes they use contaminated hands and grab their keys out of their pocket or bag,” says Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS. “Taking small extra precautions like sanitizing your keys—as well as your credit card or other often-touched items—after leaving the store can help prevent the transmission of the virus.”
Apart from keys, here are 8 Ordinary Objects You Should Avoid Touching During Coronavirus Outbreak.
You’re not sanitizing high-contact surfaces
We know doorknobs, handrails, keypads, and shopping carts can pose a threat to our health as they are touched by dozens of people (among whom infected carriers) on a daily basis. But what many of us don’t know or forget is that surfaces that are not touched by many people, like the ones inside our car, can also represent a risk of cross-contamination.
Therefore, even if you are alone in the car, but especially if you are sharing it with other people, “not wiping down your inside door handle, steering wheel, or other surfaces is a big mistake,” says Jenkins. According to family physician Monique May, MD, another “big mistake is failing to wipe the rearview mirror with disinfectant wipes. It’s highly likely that the mirror will be adjusted when a different driver takes the wheel, so be mindful to wipe it down.”
You’re keeping the windows closed
It’s getting hotter and hotter outside so keeping your windows closed and turning the AC on seems like the normal thing to do. But nothing is normal in the age of the coronavirus. The virus has been found to spread very quickly through the air, in confined spaces; and nothing spells confined space more than a car! That’s why it’s important to keep it properly ventilated and encourage better airflow.
“Keep the window open even just a bit,” says Sarin. “Research indicates that even keeping the window open three inches could help to reduce the buildup of virus particles in the vehicle, which is pretty important if anyone aside from you uses the car.” For more useful information on how to stay protected in these challenging times, check out These Are the Places You’re Most Likely to Get Infected With COVID-19, According to Doctors.
You’re putting your shopping bags on your car seats
You are not the only one carrying potentially harmful bacteria and viruses such as the coronavirus to your car. The items you bring inside can also be an issue. “Putting bags that were on the ground or other potentially contaminated surfaces on the car seat is a huge mistake,” warns May. That’s because the bags could, in turn, contaminate the car seats and other spots they come into contact with, jeopardizing the health of people who might sit down later on.
“Put grocery bags, boxes, and other supplies right in the trunk and use hand sanitizer after getting back in the car,” May suggests. Speaking of shopping, check out 10 Things You ‘re Never Going to See Again in Malls after Coronavirus.