COVID-19: You Should Be Washing Your Hands More, but Does That Go for Showering, Too?

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"Wash your hands for 20 seconds" has been one of the most common pieces of advice as COVID-19 continues to make its way into our daily lives. (Other great advice: "Wear a mask," "isolate yourself if you've been exposed," and "for the love of all things good and pure, get the vaccine if you're eligible"). Thanks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we know that tried-and-true hygiene standouts, soap and water, kill the virus—and, even as new variants emerge, this is still an important part of stopping it from spreading. But as we've all rushed to scrub our hands like surgeons over the last year and a half, the question remains: Should we be showering more often and more carefully, too?

Experts In This Article

According to pros, the answer is "not really." COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, which means it comes from your mouth and lungs, the biggest concern comes from the transfer of droplets—which are more likely to hang out on your hands than other parts of your body. Your hands are also how you'd bring those respiratory droplets into your body (by rubbing your eyes or touching your mouth). "If there's any area on your body that you tend to have respiratory droplets go onto other than your hands, you might want to focus on scrubbing that a little bit more, but other than that, there doesn't need to be a lot of focus on cleanliness and soaping," says Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and author of The Germ Files. "So, if you've got bare arms and are sneezing into your elbow, you might want to scrub your elbow. But you don't need to scrub the bottoms of your feet any more than you usually would."

As far as showering frequency, there isn't any evidence that you need to shower more often than you normally do. "We know that viruses can live in moist environments off of the skin for short periods of time," says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. But the primary mode of transmission is respiratory droplets, so you don't necessarily have to increase your daily showering routine—especially if you're hanging out alone these days. However, if you are concerned, there's no harm in paying close attention to your showering routine. Since the virus can be washed away with anything that has surfactant properties (aka anything that lathers), your usual soap, body wash, and shampoo should be totally fine for getting the job done.

As far as sharing shower tools and surfaces with other people in your household, there's very little reason to worry. While SARS-CoV-2 can live on surfaces, the CDC says that the risk of transmission is relatively low.  So you shouldn't worry too much about frantically cleaning shampoo bottles and other even soap. In other words, go ahead and treat yourself to a normal shower—and maybe even a DIY blowout, too. But don't skip out on handwashing, mask-wearing, and vaccinations—these are the most effective ways to reduce transmission.

Here are six common myths doctors want you to stop believing about COVID-19. Plus, how to treat those dry, cracked hands while you sleep.

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