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From Temple City resident Wendy Gabelman:

As nurses, we are often thinking about the germs around us, whether or not we are in a hard situation such as now. So I thought I would share some things I am doing to reduce my risk of exposure while out in public, hoping something here might be helpful to you.

1) Carry your own pen for signing anything while out and about so you don't ever need to touch someone else's pen, which has been handled by many.

2) Use debit/credit over cash right now. That money is so dirty.

3) If someone around you sneezes or coughs, immediately breathe out with whatever breath you have inside of you as you walk away from them. Do not take a breath again until you have distanced yourself from the cough/sneeze location. This may sound hard to do, but it's not -- you can hold your breath longer than you think. After distancing yourself, go wash your hands somewhere or use sanitizer because the person's germs may have landed on you. When home, change your clothes. Normally, I wouldn't do this next thing, but with our current circumstance, I will. If you have a cart of groceries and someone sneezes/coughs near your cart (the 6 foot rule), start over with a new cart and don't take those possibly contaminated groceries home.

4) Think dirty hand/clean hand. When you need to shop, get gas, etc, try to imagine this... (and sorry for the ewww factor). Imagine that one of your hands has dog poop on it. You would never touch anything with that hand until it is fully washed, right?! So apply this principle while out. Anything that other people touch is "dirty" (think dog poop dirty...ewww!) Use your non-dominant hand as the "dirty hand" and your dominant hand as "clean". Your clean hand doesn't need protection because it will only touch things that belong to you. If you have gloves (even food prep gloves), use one of the gloves for your dirty hand. If you don't have gloves as most of us don't, you can use plastic sandwich bags or dog waste bags instead. Keep some in your purse, car, pocket for when you go out.

- When you get gas, use only your "clean hand" for your keys, holding your credit card and touching your own gas cap. Your "dirty hand" is for the buttons on the pump and the pump handle itself (anything that someone else has touched....think dog poop and you won't touch it with a bare hand). So put the glove/plastic bag on your dirty hand and do what you need to. Once you're done with the gas pump, remove the glove/bag by pulling the open edge of the glove/bag over the fingers so you are turning it inside out, keeping all the germs on the inside. Throw it out in trash basket there before you get back in your car. Use your clean hand to replace your gas cap and open your car door. Once in your car, use some hand sanitizer as well. If you need two hands to manage the gas pump, then use two gloves/bags. Just be sure to remove the gloves before replacing your gas cap or grabbing your keys.

- When grocery shopping, follow the same idea, as we can't count on the stores having wipes available. One hand (the dirty hand) will be for pushing the shopping cart, opening freezer cases, etc. Your clean hand will be for touching your food, credit card, and your own grocery bags. The other day when I went to the market, I hadn't started keeping gloves/bags in my car yet. So before getting a cart, I walked to the produce section and got a plastic produce bag to use as my "glove". Then I went back outside to get my cart, using my "gloved" hand to get it. When using only one hand to move the cart, I find it easier to hold on to the side or the front of the cart and pull it around -- less strain on one wrist to push it. You will need two clean hands to choose and bag your fresh produce, so when you're ready to do that, remove the "dirty glove" and use both clean hands. (Toss the dirty glove on to the bottom flat section of the cart that you're not using). I prefer to leave the cart in one place so I don't have to keep moving it. Once done with produce, glove up the dirty hand again to move your cart. Due to all the precautions, it's probably best to do the self check-out to reduce another person handling your food. Same ideas apply. Your clean hand touches your food, your shopping bags. Dirty hand touches the screen, pinpad, cart. It takes longer using one hand at a time, but it's safer.

- Other places: dirty hand for opening doors, elevator buttons, etc. Clean hand for your purse, pocket. You would never put your hand in your purse/pocket and grab your keys if your hand had dog poop on it..... think ewww! If you don't have bags/gloves with you and you need to open a door with a handle, choose the spot on the handle that would have the least amount of contact with others, usually the bottom or top tip/edge of the handle. And, use the left door if there's a choice (less lefties out there). Use the ring finger or pinky of your non-dominant hand to touch the handle. (It's unlikely that you would use that finger to touch your face and inadvertently spread germs to yourself). For buttons/pinpads, etc, use the knuckle (not fingertip) of the finger stated above. And of course wash your hands at the next available sink.

5) Keep hand sanitizer or wipes in your car and use it every time you get back in your car from anywhere that you've touched something. (No need to waste your hand sanitizer if you didn't touch anything, as some people seem to be doing out of habit or fear). Think of your car as your "clean space", making sure to wipe down your steering wheel and all that you touch inside more regularly as well.

Phew.... that was long!!! But hopefully something here was helpful. Now you all know what I've been putting my kids through! 🙂

I truly hope that you and your community stay healthy, and at peace. Love, Wendy

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