Washing Your Hands Is Still Important

Washing Your Hands Is Still Important
Photo: Maridav, Shutterstock

Remember those early days of the pandemic, when the most talked-about ways of avoiding COVID-19 were washing your hands and not touching your face? Although we know more now about masks and potentially airborne transmission, I hope you haven’t stopped washing your hands.

Other respiratory viruses, including colds and the flu, can be transmitted both through droplets in the air and through droplets on surfaces. And since this coronavirus is new, scientists are still sussing out how common each means of transmission is.

For more on hand washing, check out the video below:

In a recent JAMA letter, three doctors point out that, for some cases of apparent airborne transmission, it may not be possible to rule out other routes. For example, if people shared an office or sang in a choir without getting close enough to breathe in each other's droplets, that may suggest those tiny airborne droplets did the job. On the other hand, those groups of people may have also touched some of the same surfaces.

Whether those cases were caused by airborne droplets or droplets on surfaces, the point is, it's too soon to say that COVID-19 only spreads this way or that. It's very possible that it spreads through large droplets and aerosols and surfaces. We don't know yet.

So even though it seems that surfaces aren't a major risk factor, hand washing is still important. (It will also reduce your risk of coming down with a cold or a stomach bug, and I think I speak for all of us in saying I do not need either of those in my life right now.) Every expert I've spoken to has mentioned hand washing as a basic, routine thing we all need to be doing. So if you've slacked off since March, get back on the hand washing wagon.