5 Sure Ways to Avoid COVID, According to a Doctor
One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and things finally seem to be turning around, however slowly. But with the introduction of new, more transmissible variants, keeping yourself protected from the virus—even if you are vaccinated—is still crucial. "It's important for people to realize that while the virus is currently widespread, it is, in fact, a 'virus'—not a magical property, not an evil humor, not a miasm. You get this infection like any other: you must be exposed, and the exposure dose must be sufficient to overcome the immediate responses of the immune system," David L. Katz, MD, MPH, President of True Health Initiative and Founding Director of the Prevention Research Center, Yale University Griffin Hospital, tells Eat This, Not That! Health. Read on to see how he thinks you can lower your chances of infection—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Dr. Katz Says Stay Somewhere Only For a "Short Duration"
Exposure time matters when it comes to COVID-19. "It's not just 'being where the virus might be' that matters," Dr. Katz explains, "it's the intensity of the potential exposure: proximity, duration, and dose. Anything that lowers the likely dose of exposure reduces the likelihood of infection even if an exposure occurs."
Dr. Katz Espouses "Mask Use"
Another way to limit the intensity of exposure, especially in regard to dose, is by wearing a mask. The CDC suggests choosing a mask that has two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric, completely covers your nose and mouth, and fits snugly against the sides of your face and doesn't have gaps.
Dr. Katz Says "Distance" Matters
Social distancing—remaining six feet apart from others—will also help prevent an infection, Dr. Katz adds. "People who are physically near (within 6 feet) a person with COVID-19 or have direct contact with that person are at greatest risk of infection," explains the CDC. "When people with COVID-19 cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe they produce respiratory droplets. These droplets can range in size from larger droplets (some of which are visible) to smaller droplets. Small droplets can also form particles when they dry very quickly in the airstream."
Dr. Katz Says Staying Healthy Overall Can Protect You Considerably
"We have important options beyond 'avoiding the virus' when it comes to protecting ourselves from adverse COVID outcomes," he says. "COVID is not a one-size-fits-all threat. Advanced age, which we can't alter, and cardiometabolic risk factors, which we can- massively change the magnitude of risk. There has never been a better time to focus on being as healthy overall as you can be—it is an acute defense against COVID, and the gift that keeps on giving, into the bargain. Addressing weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood lipids, and inflammatory responses with diet and lifestyle can start reducing covid risks almost immediately, and the benefit only increases with time."
Dr. Katz Says the More "Filters" You Have, the Safer You'll Be
Of these fundamentals, Dr. Katz says it's "best to think of this like a sequence of filters, or the holes through a block of swiss cheese. For you to get sick, the virus must get to you through all of those filters, which might include careful effort to limit your social exposures; careful personal hygiene; routine social distancing; routine mask wearing; and, ideally, good care of your overall health," he says. "Doing all of these consistently reduces risk to a very low level. Do some, but not others, and risk is reduced—but less. It is not hard to get infected with an agent that is pandemic, obviously—but it is not a magical force that get to you no matter what. The elements that allow for a meaningful exposure are well known, and you absolutely can manage them."
Dr. Katz Says Everyone Needs to Do Their Part
"The best management of" these efforts "does not leave it all to the individual-—but divides up responsibility so that government, the private sector, and individuals all play their part in a comprehensive array of defenses involving personal practices, and public policies," says Dr. Katz. Do your part—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.