How to Prepare Your Florida Coast Home for the Winter

How to Prepare Your Florida Coast Home for the Winter

Getting ready for the winter in Florida might mean putting out lights on your palm trees or wearing a light jacket, but there are some things you should probably do for your home, too. The winter is right around the corner, and even if Florida does not get particularly cold, you still need to do regular winter home maintenance. To that end, here are some tips to help you prepare your Florida coast home for the coming winter.

Do a Safety Check

Most people in Florida have a fireplace or a furnace but don’t typically use them very often. Because of that, it is critical that you get them checked on a yearly basis before the two or three nights you might actually need them. Always call professionals to check them out to make sure they are safe for use. Make sure you’re connected with a Florida home warranty provider, so if they find an issue, it can be covered.

Other safety checks include checking smoke alarms to make sure they have new batteries. Ensure you have a working flashlight or lanterns in easy-to-reach places in case power goes out during inclement weather. Also, make sure your fire extinguisher works and is not expired because they do expire. On another note, smoke alarms also expire, so expect to replace them every 7-10 years, and the winter is the perfect time to do that.

Gutter Cleaning

Leaves winter in the winter, right? And those leaves are going to block your gutters and cause debris to pile up on your roof. That is not a good thing, so clean out the gutters to prevent blockages.

Something else to think about is when you have blocked gutters. Your roofs are more prone to leaks because of localized flooding. What happens in Florida in the early winter months? Unfortunately, sometimes hurricanes. Keeping gutters clear is crucial to keeping your roof in check for hurricane season. 

Seal the Windows and Doors

Florida does not get super cold, but it does get hot in the summer. You want to have the windows and doors in your house sealed to keep the heat outside and the cool air inside. It is easy to check your seals yourself to see if they need to be resealed. Take a basic piece of paper like copy paper. If your paper slips between the seals, you need new ones.

New sealants can be purchased at most home improvement stores or other retailers like Amazon or Walmart. It is not expensive and pretty easy to replace yourself. Take a few hours on the weekend to do it, but make sure you have enough sealants. Otherwise, you are going to have to go back out or order more. Measure the spaces that need work to ensure there is enough sealant on hand for the job.

Prep Gardens for the Spring

That sounds a little backward when winter is coming and winter hasn’t even hit yet but bear with us. If you plant the bulbs for your spring gardens during the winter, they are going to lay dormant through the winter. They will pop out of the ground eager to say hi and welcome that beautiful Florida sunshine when it is time.

While you are prepping your garden planting, it is an excellent time to clean up your gardening tools. You will not need some of them at all during the winter, like the lawnmower, so cleaning it up now gets you ready and organized for next spring. 

Paint All the Walls

The winter is the perfect time to paint the exterior walls. It is not too terribly hot, and you will have enough time to let them paint dry. Do yourself a favor and use quality exterior paint so you will not have to do it again for a while. It will look especially good when it is done, too.

Painting the walls inside is also a good choice for the same reasons. You can also open up the windows for extra ventilation without worrying about sweltering heat if you do it in the winter. You can get your home ready for entertaining your family when they come over for the holidays.

Consider Stocking the Pantry

Stocking the pantry means just that—not hoarding toilet paper. You do not need to stock for disaster prep, although getting a little extra of the essentials is never a bad idea thanks to hurricane season in Florida. Getting your pantry stocked is more about staples for winter dishes. If you know you happen to cook a lot of chili during the winter, stock up on the major ingredients so you have them on hand.

You might also consider adding a few of your favorite bottles of wine or your favorite snacks for when you want to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie. The winter is about being cozy, so do what you need to do to prepare for a relaxing, well-stocked season. 

The Bottom Line 

Preparing your Florida home for the winter can be a very individual activity. For some, it means applying another coat of water-resistant sealant to the deck outside. For others, it is about making your home warm and cozy to enjoy the changing of the seasons. Start by making sure your safety is top-notch so you can enjoy your home safely. Don’t forget to clean the gutters, and remember to seal any gaps around your windows or doors.

Once you are done there, prep your gardens for the spring and consider painting your home’s exterior. Even if it just needs a minor touch-up, taking the time to paint it is worthwhile because it will make you feel accomplished. This is also an excellent time to paint the interior if you are so inclined. Once your home is ready for the winter, your last step is to make sure you have everything necessary to enjoy your wholly prepared home.



What to do If You Have Mold in Your Home

What to do If You Have Mold in Your Home

Mold can look like spots. It can be many different colors, and it can smell musty. If you see or smell mold, you should remove it. You do not need to know the type of mold.

If mold is growing in your home, you need to clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. Mold can be removed from hard surfaces with household products, soap, and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of household laundry bleach in 1 gallon of water.

If You Use Bleach to Clean up Mold

  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Mixing bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products will produce poisonous gas.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when you use bleach or any other cleaning product.
  • Open windows and doors to provide fresh air.
  • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected areas.
  • If you need to clean more than 10 square feet, check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guide titled Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, which gives advice on all building types. You can get it by going to the EPA web site at icon.

To Prevent Mold Growth in Your Home

  • Keep humidity levels in your home as low as you can—no higher than 50%–all day long. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will help you keep the level low. You can buy a meter to check your home’s humidity at a home improvement store. Humidity levels change over the course of a day so you will need to check the humidity levels more than once a day.
  • Be sure the air in your home flows freely. Use exhaust fans that vent outside your home in the kitchen and bathroom. Make sure your clothes dryer vents outside your home.
  • Fix any leaks in your home’s roof, walls, or plumbing so mold does not have moisture to grow.
  • Clean up and dry out your home fully and quickly (within 24–48 hours) after a flood.
  • Add mold inhibitors to paints before painting. You can buy mold inhibitors at paint and home improvement stores.
  • Clean bathrooms with mold-killing products.
  • Remove or replace carpets and upholstery that have been soaked and cannot be dried right away. Think about not using carpet in places like bathrooms or basements that may have a lot of moisture.
health problems associated with exposure to mold

Who is most at risk for health problems associated with exposure to mold?

People with allergies may be more sensitive to molds. People with immune suppression or underlying lung disease are more susceptible to fungal infections. Individuals with chronic respiratory disease (e.g., a chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma) may experience difficulty breathing. Individuals with immune suppression are at increased risk for infection from molds. If you or your family members have these conditions, a qualified medical clinician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment.

How do you keep mold out of buildings and homes?

Inspect buildings for evidence of water damage and visible mold as part of routine building maintenance, Correct conditions causing mold growth (e.g., water leaks, condensation, infiltration, or flooding) to prevent mold growth.

Inside your home, you can control mold growth by:

  • Controlling humidity levels;
  • Promptly fixing leaky roofs, windows, and pipes;
  • Thoroughly cleaning and drying after flooding;
  • Ventilating shower, laundry, and cooking areas.

Specific Recommendations:

  • Keep humidity levels as low as you can—between 30% and 50%–all day long. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will help you keep the level low. Bear in mind that humidity levels change over the course of a day with changes in the moisture in the air and the air temperature, so you will need to check the humidity levels more than once a day.
  • Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months.
  • Be sure your home has enough ventilation. Use exhaust fans which vent outside your home in the kitchen and bathroom. Make sure your clothes dryer vents outside your home.
  • Fix any leaks in your home’s roof, walls, or plumbing so mold does not have moisture to grow.
  • Consider not using carpet in rooms or areas like bathrooms or basements that may have a lot of moisture.

Should I be concerned about a serious health risk to me and my family?

There is always a little mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces.

Certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifically “mycotoxins”). Hazards presented by molds that may produce mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds that can grow in your house. Not all fungi produce mycotoxins and even those that do will not do so under all surface or environmental conditions.

Mold growth, which often looks like spots, can be many different colors and can smell musty.  Color is not an indication of how dangerous a mold may be.  Any mold should be removed and the moisture source that helped it grow should be removed.

There are very few reports that toxigenic molds found inside homes can cause unique or rare health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. These case reports are rare, and a causal link between the presence of the toxigenic mold and these conditions has not been proven.

Basic Facts about Mold

Basic Facts about Mold

How common is mold in buildings?

Molds are very common in buildings and homes. Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.

The most common indoor molds are CladosporiumPenicillium, and Aspergillus.  We do not have precise information about how often different molds are found in buildings and homes.

How do molds get in the indoor environment and how do they grow?

Mold is found both indoors and outdoors. Mold can enter your home through open doorways, windows, vents, and heating and air conditioning systems. Mold in the air outside can also attach itself to clothing, shoes, and pets can and be carried indoors. When mold spores drop on places where there is excessive moisture, such as where leakage may have occurred in roofs, pipes, walls, plant pots, or where there has been flooding, they will grow. Many building materials provide suitable nutrients that encourage mold to grow. Wet cellulose materials, including paper and paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood, and wood products, are particularly conducive for the growth of some molds. Other materials such as dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery, commonly support mold growth.

How do you know if you have a mold problem?

Large mold infestations can usually be seen or smelled.

How do molds affect people?

Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects or none at all. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin. Some people, such as those with allergies to molds or with asthma, may have more intense reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath.

In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition.

In 2009, the World Health Organization issued additional guidance, the WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mould pdf icon[PDF – 2.65 MB]external icon. Other recent studies have suggested a potential link of early mold exposure to the development of asthma in some children, particularly among children who may be genetically susceptible to asthma development, and that selected interventions that improve housing conditions can reduce morbidity from asthma and respiratory allergies.

A link between other adverse health effects, such as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants, memory loss, or lethargy, and molds, including the mold Stachybotrys chartarum  has not been proven. Further studies are needed to find out what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage and other adverse health effects.

There is no blood test for mold.  Some physicians can do allergy testing for possible allergies to mold, but no clinically proven tests can pinpoint when or where a particular mold exposure took place.

COVID-19 How to Protect Yourself & Others

COVID-19 How to Protect Yourself & Others

Know-How it Spreads

  • There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease in 2019 (COVID-19).
  • The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
  • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
    • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
    • Respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
    • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
    • Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

Everyone Should

Clean your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

    • Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus.

Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others

  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
  • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
    • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
  • Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker.
  • Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

More details: How COVID-19 Spreads


Tips and Best Practices to Minimize Your Risk – COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to respond to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus that was first detected in China and has now spread internationally. While the virus is termed coronavirus, the sickness that results after the infection has been termed COVID-19.

EE&G is an environmental contracting and restoration firm with immediate response capabilities throughout the SE United States. EE&G is a National Expert in large scale Disinfection and Decontamination of microbial pathogens. EE&G has the staff and resources to respond immediately to your properties, sanitize and disinfect, so re-occupancy can occur quickly.

EE&G is a premier emergency and disaster response firm. 

How COVID-19 Coronavirus Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). Respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus.

Minimize Your Risk

Tips and Best Practices to Minimize Your Risk
Cities and states are taking increasingly drastic measures to curb the severity of the pandemic, including the closing of bars, restaurants, and public venues. In some areas, officials have issued “shelter in place” orders in order to compel residents to stay in their homes and limit movement. To further protect yourself, minimize your exposure with the following tips:
Practice Good Hygiene
  • Clean hands with sanitizer and wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your face and cover coughs and sneezes
  • Disinfect “high touch” surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, tables, doorknobs, and handrails regularly
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting the air conditioning
At The Office
  • Stop shaking hands – use other non-contact methods of greeting
  • Use video conferencing for meetings when possible
  • When not possible, hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces
  • Disinfect “high touch” surfaces like desks, keyboards, light switches, doorknobs, and telephones
  • Consider adjusting or postponing large meetings or gatherings
Stay Home if…
  • You are feeling sick
  • You have a sick family member in their home
Protecting Your Air Quality from COVID-19

Protecting Your Air Quality from COVID-19

The new coronavirus, COVID-19, has the attention of the entire world. This virus has spread rapidly since the outbreak began in China in December 2019. With headlines warning us of travel bans, canceled conferences, and school closures, we have to ask, is there something we are missing to prevent the spread within our own indoor environment?

There are different kinds of coronaviruses, most of which only cause mild symptoms and illness, such as a cold. According to the World Health Organization, common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.  We do not know what caused this novel coronavirus (COVID-19), but research is being carried out to find its original source. So how can we combat this new deadly flu? The CDC and the WHO have both stated that washing your hands frequently and steering clear from carriers will be enough, however as more cases are popping up, new precautions are surfacing.

It’s no mystery that the air inside our homes, offices, and buildings we enter may be contaminated. What if the building is ‘sick’ and harboring more than just the Coronavirus?

According to the EPA, 50% of residential buildings and 80% of commercial buildings both have water damage, which is the breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, and black mold. The particulates produced by molds (mycotoxins) have been medically labeled as more dangerous to human health than mold spores themselves. Once inhaled, Mycotoxins can have serious health implications. Black mold symptoms can mimic the flu and worsen pre-existing conditions like Asthma, Auto-immune Diseases, and more.

The reality is bacteria, molds, viruses, and toxins are living and thriving in our homes. Unfortunately, no matter how much cleaning products you use to prevent organic materials from growing, it continues to, from the top to the very bottom of your house.

Air purifier technology today operates at a high capacity, high efficiency, and ability to clear the air of potential viruses, mold, and dangerous particulates.

To help reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus, cleaning the air in the room is a great step towards warding off the virus.. Installing an adequate ventilation system can ensure that the air exchange is adequate, but pollutants that are outside can still enter the room. The best way to stop viruses in the air is to install an air purifier. Choose an air purifier that is able to filter out 99.9 percent of pollutants as small as 0.1 microns, including H1N1, an earlier strain of coronavirus similar to 2019-now.

There are three phases of air treatment filtration, purification, and sanitization. 

Filtration’s job is to capture contaminants and ultrafine particles from the air. It is the part of air cleaning known as a REACTIVE procedure. It’s a reactive process because it requires contaminants and ultrafine particles to come to it, rather than proactively going out to discover and destroy them. This means that these particles need to airborne and get caught in the air stream created by the filter unit to be removed.

Purification’s job is to eliminate organic contaminants (like mold, microorganisms, bacteria, and viruses) from both the air and on surfaces. While filtration gets contaminants out of the air and holds them until you replace the filter, purification basically destroys them by binding to the contaminant causing them to explode. Purification is the process called a PROACTIVE procedure. Ions leave the unit destroying mold and other organic contaminants. It doesn’t make a difference where the contaminants are found. Throughout the air, on surfaces, these ions can destroy where filters cannot.

The sanitization procedure utilizes similar ions that are made to remove ultra-fine in-organic particulate from the air. Sanitization is both REACTIVE and PROACTIVE. The ions attach to these contaminants, making them bigger and heavier. This causes the ultrafine particles that are too small to be captured by the filter, become large enough to for the filter to trap.

How Indoor Air Quality Can Affect Your Health

How Indoor Air Quality Can Affect Your Health

People spend about 90% of their lives indoors, and pollutant levels can be as high as 100 times the levels encountered outside. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks indoor air pollution among the top four environmental hazards in America.

While our attention is focused on the spread of Coronavirus, and we are thinking about the necessary precautions that are needed to reduce our chances of coming in contact with this virus, HVAC professionals know that Coronavirus is not the only disease, germ, virus, or pollutant we need to combat in our homes. We also need to consider the other viruses and germs that are spread through a central HVAC system. One-way people can be proactive and protect themselves from getting sick in general is by being educated on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ).

There are four particular groups (although all people could benefit) that need the best possible air quality in the home:

  1. Infants to 16-years-old
  2. Adults, age 60 plus
  3. No age restriction – immune-compromised individuals, pregnant women, and persons with chronic respiratory disorders, and those recovering from surgical procedures or illness
  4. Pet owners with domestic animals – dogs, cats, and birds

Scientist believes the principal transmission mode of the Coronavirus is by respiratory droplets, which may travel several feet from someone who is coughing or sneezing. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is the first step to control the spread. However, residual contaminants can travel through your HVAC system, where all air in the home is circulated and can contribute to the spread of an airborne virus. The Coronavirus has the same traits as other viruses such as the common cold, the flu, and a sore throat, by how it is spread from person-to-person.

Source control is always the first step when dealing with IAQ concerns such as mold, dust, odor, and even viruses. There are many remedies when it comes to managing IAQ in a home. Some products range from a higher Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rated filter, electronic air cleaners, and ultra-violet sterilization systems. The HVAC system and duct system can contribute to spreading unwanted pathogens in the air, not because your system came contaminated from the factory, but because the air in your home became contaminated.

Tiny pathogens spread in the air can be fungi, bacteria, or viruses. The difference between a virus and bacteria is viruses are much smaller than bacteria, and viruses cannot survive without a host. According to the Mayo Clinic, fewer than 1% of bacteria cause disease in people.

In addition to spreading viruses through an HVAC system, another nemesis is mold, a biological growth. Mold is, in the simplest terms, part of the “dust to dust” program. Everything living will die, it will return to the food chain, whether it’s a mighty oak tree, your favorite leather shoes (once upon a time, a cow), or that forgotten orange in the back of the refrigerator.

Your HVAC system can provide biological growth the perfect opportunity to form and grow. There are three things needed to support biological growth. Food is the number one source of supporting biological growth. One example of food sources is skin cells that have flaked off and floated into the HVAC system. The next item to support organic growth is moisture. Once those skin cells made it through the system, they can become attached to the evaporator coil or blower motor. When the coil starts to produce condensation along with the food source, it becomes the perfect recipe for biological growth. The final item to contribute to organic growth is the absence of ultraviolet light. HVAC professionals and homeowners who manage these factors, reduce the risk of biological growth.

To set the record straight:

  1. Mold and viruses are not a factory option
  2. ​AC units do not create mold or viruses
  3. ​If you have mold or viruses, it is your mold and viruses
  4. An ultra-violet system will not keep your home mold or virus-free

When an ultra-violet system is used correctly and installed to the manufacture’s guidelines, it can prove to be a useful tool. Ultra-violet exists in natural sunlight (it’s why we wear sunscreen, and mold grows under a rock), it disassembles the DNA of organics. It reduces them to nitrogen and oxygen. Ultra-violet is most effective as surface irradiation (with a limited “kill zone”) and is used in many applications. It is used to sterilize medical instruments, clean reclaimed water in treatment plants, saltwater aquariums, and is used in food processing.

Contractors should educate customers on the value of IAQ and provide solutions and options to help the homeowner make educated decisions. An HVAC system should be inspected at a minimum, twice a year. Visit The National Air Duct Cleaners Association for recommendations on HVAC system cleaning. Be sure to ask your HVAC technician on products that can help you breathe cleaner, fresher, healthier air.

In times like these, when emotions run high, and everyone is concerned about the unknown, HVAC professionals need to shine as a beacon of truth and good faith. Quality maintenance, good hygiene, and proven best practices such as; improved indoor air quality, source control for contamination, and keeping a clean house are the keys to successfully navigating current health issues.


Reference Sources

By: Matt Akins, ACCA Manager of HVACR Education

corona virus at home

How to Prep for the Coronavirus at Home

Just a week ago, the first “community spread” of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) was detected in the United States: a woman in Northern California who hadn’t been exposed to anyone known to have the virus.

Before her diagnosis, people in the United States were only thought to be at risk for COVID-19 if they had recently traveled to a high-risk area abroad or been exposed to someone who was sick.

But the woman in California hadn’t traveled internationally, nor had she been in contact with anyone with the infection.

This suggests that person-to-person transmission may be more likely than we originally anticipated.

Since then, COVID-19 casesTrusted Source has popped up around the country. As of March 3, in addition to the 48 cases from repatriated people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, there have been 60 new cases across 12 states. Nine people have died.

Soon, we may see widespread activity. Health officials are urging citizens not to panic but to prepare.

In initial testing, experts have found that COVID-19 may result in mild symptoms for many people.

Here are five expert-backed ways to prepare for a pandemic.

Buy soap and disinfectants
Health experts widely agree that frequent handwashing is the most effective way to avoid contracting COVID-19. So, the first thing to do is to make sure you have a healthy supply of soap.

“For preparation, I think the most important thing is to make sure they have enough soap — and that can be plain old bar soap to wash their hands on a regular basis,” said Dr. Michael Ison, an infectious disease physician, and professor of infectious diseases and organ transplantation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The virus may also be able to survive on surfaces for longer than a week, so disinfecting wipes can be useful. Some researchTrusted Source shows bleach- and ethanol-based cleaning products may be the best at wiping out viruses on surfaces.

You don’t need to stockpile disinfectants and hand sanitizers, Ison says, but have a bottle or two available.

Stock up on supplies
Experts say that if you’re healthy, you probably don’t need to buy face masks.

For one, they’re not going to be very effective in preventing you from getting sick. Surgical masks are thin and have spaces through the sides where germs can easily get in. They’re mainly useful for people who are already sick to help limit how many respiratory droplets are shot into the air when they cough or sneeze.

But if people keep buying the masks, there will continue to be shortages, and the individuals who actually need the masks — sick people and healthcare providers — won’t have them. What you do need is a couple weeks’ worth of food and supplies, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

“Having supplies that can help your household run normally for a few weeks is sufficient,” said Dr. Manisha Juthani, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist.

Look for frozen foods and canned items that won’t go bad.

You don’t need to stock up for the end of the world but stay on top of what you have to ensure you don’t run out of goods if you’re homesick for a couple of weeks.

“Be more thoughtful to get more before you run out instead of waiting until the last possible second,” Ison said, adding that grocery stores will continue to stay open, and you can always ask a friend or neighbor to bring over supplies if you do run out.

Stock up on medicine
It’s also crucial to keep an eye on your medications.

Over-the-counter medications like pain relievers, fever reducers, and decongestants are thought to help relieve milder symptoms of COVID-19. Rather than waiting until the last minute to fill prescriptions, keep them replenished.

“I think one of the most important steps people can take right now is to be sure they have a 30- or 90-day supply of critical medications that may be hard to get due to supply chain interruptions,” Linda Lee, DrPH, an environmental health expert and chief medical affairs and science officer at UV Angel, told Healthline.

People who have an underlying condition — such as lung disease, heart disease, or diabetes — need to be even more vigilant to protect themselves, Lee adds.

Early reports show the disease is most severe in people with other health conditions.

Check-in with work and school
We’re probably going to see the school and work closures in communities where the activity is heightened. Now’s the time to call your children’s schools and your boss and ask them about sick day policies so you can put a plan in place. Companies should reevaluate their work from home policies, as people will need to quarantine themselves if they contract the virus.

“We will need to listen to the guidance of our public health officials that will be best equipped to inform these decisions. All parents need to have backup plans should their children need to remain home,” Juthani said.

Pay attention to local news
Most importantly, stay up to date with what’s happening in your community. If the new coronavirus does strike, look to your local health officials.

“If COVID-19 hits your community, first remember to stay calm and not to panic. Listen to the guidance of your local government and public health officials,” Juthani said.

This is a quickly developing situation. New information comes out every day — so how we should prepare and respond will likely evolve in the coming days and vary from community to community. In the meantime, start to prepare and practice healthy hygiene habits just as you would during any cold or flu season, Lee says.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. And remember, some people with COVID-19 may be asymptomatic, so handwashing and cleaning surfaces can go a long way.

touch your face

You Probably Touch Your Face 16 Times an Hour: Here’s How to Stop

We all do it. We touch our faces countless times every day. An itchy nose, tired eyes, wiping your mouth with the back of your hand are all things we do without a second thought.

However, touching your face can significantly increase the risk of infection with flu or cold viruses, but especially the new coronavirus.

Your mouth and eyes are areas where viruses can enter the body most easily, and all it takes is touching them with a finger already carrying an infection.

Get updates on COVID-19 and helpful tips to stay healthy.
Our Daily Update shares ways to protect yourself and your loved ones to ease uncertainty.

Two ways to transmit an infection
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, the new coronavirus, also called SARS-CoV-2, is transmitted from person to person, like many other respiratory infections.

This includes by respiratory droplets produced when someone sneezes and inhaled into the lungs of others, and by touching a virus-contaminated surface and using that hand to touch your eyes or mouth.

While we can easily avoid being around someone who’s obviously sick, or take precautions against airborne viruses using a mask, avoiding the virus when it’s on a surface is almost impossible.

Stay informed with our live updates about the current COVID-19 outbreak. Also, visit our coronavirus hub for more information on how to prepare, advise on prevention and treatment, and expert recommendations.

We touch our faces all the time
Scientists researching this behavior find that people are constantly touching their faces.

In one 2008 study trusted Source, 10 subjects were each observed alone in an office environment for 3 hours. Researchers found they touched their faces an average of 16 times per hour.

Another study from 2015Trusted Source observed 26 medical students at a university in Australia to discover they touched their faces 23 times per hour. Almost half of the face touches involved the mouth, nose, or eyes, which are the easiest pathways for viruses and bacteria to enter our bodies.

Even medical professionals, who should know better, were found to touch their faces an average of 19 times in 2 hours while being inconsistent about observing proper hand hygiene.

“When actively working, people will often shake their foot, play with their hair, or in these instances, touch their faces. It certainly helps to know when you are most vulnerable to such activities and try to stay aware, during the meeting, or phone call, or while engrossed in work,” Dr. Alex Dimitriu, double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine, in Menlo Park, California, told Healthline.

Handwashing is key
So, we take precautions like washing our handsTrusted Source often and using at least 20 seconds to do so. But this can only help if we also avoid touching our faces, as there’s no way of knowing when you’ve picked up a tiny, and potentially deadly, passenger.

According to the CDC, effective handwashing consists of five simple steps:

  • wet
  • lather
  • scrub
  • rinse
  • dry

However, we touch our faces so often that the odds of recontaminating our hands between washings are extremely high. All it takes is touching a doorknob or similar surface and you’re in danger of infection again.

“A new ring, jewelry, or even a rubber band around the wrist can serve as a reminder to increase awareness of the hands, and ideally to remember to not touch your face,” said Dimitriu. “Something needs to be different, however, to encourage ‘different’ and nonautomatic behavior.”

It’s a habit you can break
Zachary Sikora, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital in Huntley, Illinois, offered the following tips to avoid touching your face during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Be mindful about your intention to keep your hands away from your face. Just a brief pause can help you be more aware of what you’re doing with your hands,” he said.

He added that it also helps to place reminders like Post-it notes in your home or office so you can see them and remember you want to keep your hands away from your face.

“Keep your hands busy. If you’re at home watching TV, try folding laundry, sort through mail, or hold something in your hands,” Sikora explained, adding that even a tissue will do, as long as it reminds you to keep your hands away from your face.

He also recommended using a scented hand sanitizer or a scented hand soap to help remind yourself to keep hands away from your face. The smell will draw your attention to the location of your hands.

If you’re in a meeting or sitting in a class, he recommended lacing your fingers together and placing them in your lap.

Finally, if you know you habitually touch your face, Sikora said wearing gloves can be an effective physical reminder.

“You can wear gloves when you’re out in public and most likely to be exposed by touching surfaces that have the virus,” said Sikora. “Then remove them when you get to your destination. It may be unusual, but wearing gloves at home can also help you break the habit of touching your face.”

The bottom line
Your eyes, nose, and mouth are the easiest paths for a virus-like SARS-CoV-2 to enter the body.

All it takes is touching these areas with your hands after you’ve come in contact with the disease on a surface you touched. No matter how frequently you wash your hands, it’s not often enough to prevent passing an infection into your system. The best preventive measure is to avoid touching your face as much as possible.

Experts say that using some simple methods will help you break this habit. These include using scented hand soap or sanitizer to increase awareness of where your hands are and keeping your hands in your lap during meetings.