washing handsThe novel coronavirus (COVDI-19), which originated in Wuhan, China, 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:

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."

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.

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.

4. Guidance on wearing face coverings

California’s public health officials released guidance on April 1 on the use of cloth face coverings to protect against COVID-19 for Californians who must leave their homes to conduct essential activities. According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the guidance does not require people to wear face coverings – and is not a substitute for the state’s current guidance regarding social distancing and hand washing. The state also does not recommend Californians use N95 or surgical masks, which are needed for health care workers and first responders.

According to CDPH, “The use of cloth face coverings in public could reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by people who do not have symptoms. A cloth face covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand, or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts or towels. However, public health officials also caution that the use of face coverings may increase some level of risk if users reduce their use of well-established defenses against the virus such as physical distancing and frequent hand washing."

The best ways to limit exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses is to practice good hand hygiene, avoid touching your face, and socially distance yourself from others. If you have an underlying medical condition, for which masking is necessary independent of COVID-19, you should continue to do so.

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