washing handsThe novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to an increased awareness of personal hygiene.

There are a few easy things you can do to help prevent yourself and others from getting sick. Our experts offer their advice.

Also, check out these ways to stay healthy amid the COVID-19 pandemic (pdf).

1. Aim for your elbow when you cough or sneeze

Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children's Hospital, explains that coughing or sneezing into your elbow limits the spread of droplets in the air.

"In the old days, we were taught to cover our mouths with our hands," Blumberg said. "That was not great because we got all the germs on our hands and then we touched things, spreading germs all over. Cough or sneeze into your elbow is recommended because you are unlikely to touch that area and transmit germs to others."

Learn more about COVID-19 prevention 

2. Wash your hands for 20 seconds each time

Spending a few extra seconds at the sink with soap and water can help eliminate the spread of germs. Rachel Robertson, a pediatrician at UC Davis Children's Hospital, recommends using warm water and singing "Happy Birthday" in your head (or aloud, if you prefer).

Make sure the soap covers all portions of the hands, including in between the fingers and on your palms, and wash for 20 seconds. Rinse thoroughly to get all the soapy residue off. When you turn the faucet off, you can use a paper towel to make sure you don't dirty your hands again.

Related: Get these tips for cleaning surfaces in your home and around town

3. Maintain social distancing

Evidence shows COVID-19 is most often transmitted through droplets generated by coughs and sneezes, and by contact with contaminated surfaces. Part of the idea of social distancing is that droplets can generally carry for 5 to 6 feet. If you’re farther than that, your chances of getting the virus are generally lower.

Learn more about how COVID-19 is spread 

4. Guidance on wearing face coverings

As of June 18, Californians must wear face coverings or masks in public or high-risk places, including when shopping, taking public transit or seeking medical care. The guidance was announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. It mandates the use of cloth face coverings by the general public statewide when outside the home, with limited exceptions.

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), research shows that people with no or few symptoms of novel coronavirus (also known as asymptomatic) can still spread the disease. The agency added that face coverings, combined with social distancing and good hand washing practices, will reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The new requirements include mandatory face coverings or masks in situations such as:

  • Inside or waiting to enter any indoor public space
  • Obtaining health care services
  • Waiting in line or riding in public transportation or ride-sharing services
  • At work in public spaces and while walking through common spaces
  • While outdoors when maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet or more isn’t possible

There are some exceptions to the mandate, which are listed on the CDPH’s website. Children ages 2 and under, and people with a medical, mental health or a developmental disability that prevent them wearing a face covering, are among those exempted.

See our 5 tips to wear and care for your cloth face covering

Get directions to make low-cost face masks for yourself and your family.

Video: U.S. Surgeon General shows you how to make face masks from items around your house