How to Protect Yourself from Infectious Diseases

Recently, there were some articles on how to protect yourself from infectious diseases on NHK and other Japanese websites.

They gave good basic knowledge and hygiene on infectious diseases. The tips should work whether it is a common cold, influenza, rubella or the new coronavirus. Here is some information from those sites to help us to minimize the spread of disease and lessen the chances of infection.


(1) How to protect yourself from infectious diseases: In short

  1. How we get infected
  2. Basic protection 1: Avoid overcrowded places
  3. Basic protection 2: Do not touch your face before washing your hands properly

(2) How to cough and sneeze properly

  1. Cough into tissue paper
  2. Cough into your elbow

(3) How to wash your hands to protect yourself from infectious diseases

  1. How often?
  2. How long?
  3. How should we wash our hands?
  4. How should we dry?

(4) Miscellaneous

  1. About masks
  2. How to wear a mask without fogging your glasses
  3. About sanitizing wet tissue paper
  4. To prepare your body to fight back against infectious diseases better
  5. The drawback
  • ルビ付き和訳 The Japanese translation


How to Protect yourself from Infectious Diseases

(1) How to protect yourself from infectious diseases: In short

1. The popular routes of infection

There are some popular routes of infection. One is the splash of liquid containing virus from coughing or sneezing of an infected person. They can spread in the air and you can breathe them in.

Another route is when you inadvertently have touched something with a virus. After that, if you touch your nose or mouth or rub your eyes with those hands, you can get infected.

2. Basic protection 1: Avoid overcrowded places

Stay away from school, office, theaters (we don’t know what to say about hospitals…). Also try not to walk on a very busy street, visit a very busy train station, or take a train, bus or airplane.

3. Basic protection 2: Do not touch your face before washing your hands properly

It is common that when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with “dirty” hands, you get infected at the membrane of those parts of the body. We will explain the proper way to wash your hands in this post.

(2) How to cough and sneeze properly

1. Cough into tissue paper

Carry some tissue paper with you. Cough, sneeze or spit into a piece of tissue paper, then discard it in a trash can as soon as possible.

Don’t cover your mouth with your palms when you cough or sneeze. You can do so only when you can wash your hands with soap and water immediately afterward.

2. Cough into your elbow

An image of a popular cartoon educating people how to prevent infectious diseases
Click to enlarge [画像をクリックすると拡大します]

If you don’t have tissue paper or if it’s not ready in time for your coughing or sneezing, use your sleeve. You do it like this poster says:

"Cough Etiquette: Choose one of the following when you cough or sneeze!”
1. Wear a mask
2. Cover with your elbow or
3. Cover with tissue paper or a handkerchief

2. means quickly bring your arm in front of you and cough or sneeze in the inside of your elbow.

(3) How to wash your hands to protect yourself from infectious diseases

1. How often?

Washing hands is the most basic and effective way to protect yourself from infectious diseases. Wash your hands as often as necessary. For example, you would like to wash your hands when you come home, get out of a place where a lot of people have gathered, touch a handrail or door knob which a lot of people have touched, and so on.

2. How long?

When we used a bathroom at a supermarket in South Carolina, we saw a very cute sign to teach hygiene to children. It told them to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing their hands. It must mean “for about 20 seconds” but it’s more memorable than telling them to count twenty instead.

On NHK, pundits also tell us to wash our hands at least for twenty seconds. However, taking more time may be actually better if we look at the following research results. This was research on the effectiveness of washing hands with different durations by measuring the remaining viruses.

Number of bacteria after hand washing
[Click to enlarge / 画像をクリックすると拡大します]
  • Before washing hands, there were about one million norovirus.
  • After washing hands under running water for 15 seconds, the number of remaining norovirus was reduced to about ten thousand (about 1% of the original number).
  • After rubbing hands with soap for 10 to 30 seconds and rinsing under running water for 15 seconds, the remaining virus was several hundred (about 0.01%)
  • After rubbing hands with soap for 60 seconds and rinsing under running water for 15 seconds, the remaining virus was several dozen (about 0.001%).
  • After rubbing hands with soap for 10 seconds and rinsing under running water for 15 seconds, and repeating the rub and rinse in the same way, the remaining virus was only a few (about 0.0001%).

(By Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health)

From this, I learned “rubbing hands with soap” is the important part in washing. Before, I would take more time in just rinsing my hands under running water.

3. How should we wash our hands?

An image of thumb washing
Hold the thumbs and rub separately from fingers.

First of all, use enough soap. After rubbing all the parts of your hands, including your wrists, you should still see lather on your hands.

Second, rub each finger carefully. As for your thumbs, twist and rub them.

Then rub all the parts between the fingers and the thumbs. Rub your wrists as well.

For your information, in the images below, red areas show the parts which are left unclean most often. The areas in pink are parts frequently left unclean. The left image is the back of the hand, and the right one is the palm side. 

Also, we hear that the area around your rings is often left uncleaned.

An image of hands with uncleaned parts
The red parts are most often uncleaned in washing. Pink parts are the second most often uncleaned. [Click to enlarge / 画像をクリックすると拡大します]

After you finish rubbing, rinse, and always use under running water. Hot or cold doesn’t matter. Washing in a pool of water may allow the viruses go back to your hands.

Lastly, turn the water off without touching the lever.

If soap and water are not available, you may use alcohol or sanitizing gel. In this case, dispense enough liquid or gel in your hands. And quickly rub it in all parts of your hands and wrists making sure no part is left un-rubbed while your hands are still wet.

4. How to dry

Dry your hands with paper towel and discard the towel each time you use it.

Do not share a towel with others. Keep a towel or handkerchief for your sole use.

(4) Miscellaneous

An image of masked person
Cover your nose and chin

1. About masks

Masks are good to protect you from infectious diseases, but what’s the purpose of wearing them?

A mask protects you from getting the droplets, possibly containing viruses, from coughing or sneezing people right near you. Moreover, it prevents you from spreading the viruses by coughing or sneezing in the open air or onto things. 

Therefore, even if masks are not available, you can still attain the same goal by washing your face and hands thoroughly upon returning home, and coughing and sneezing as suggested in this post . 

An image to show how to pick up a used mask
Pick up a used mask with the strings

If you use a mask, use a clean, properly packaged one and dispose of it after each use, at least once a day.

Also, when you dispose of a mask, please refer to the photo and the instruction from an NHK article below:

“Pick a used mask up by the loops. Dispose of it in a closed trash can or in a closed polyethylene bag so that people who handle them later will not risk touching the most contaminated center part.”

2. How to wear a mask without fogging your glasses

An image with a mask with a tissue paper
Fold a piece of tissue paper into eight, and place it inside a mask before wearing it.

If you are wearing glasses, you may have experienced fogging of your glasses as you breathe.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department offered a solution in their website.

They suggest that you should line the inside of your mask with a folded tissue paper inside to prevent the fogging. I tried it and found it effective, so I can recommend it to you.

There are many “sanitizing” wet tissues on the market. Actually, how effective are they? Here is a test result published by the Saitama Prefecture branch of National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan in January 2018.

They collected some bacteria from a used kitchen sponge and rubbed them onto the table. Then they tested how much bacteria they could remove by wiping the table with four different kinds of tissue paper.

You may say that bacteria and viruses are different and wiping will not disinfect, but we thought the results may interest you.

An image of a test result to show how much bacteria you can remove by wiping with different kinds of wipes
[Click to enlarge / 画像をクリックすると拡大します]

The top row (marked with red) is the results with antibacterial wet tissue containing alcohol. Far left is the image before wiping, the second from left is after the first wiping, the third after wiping for the second time, and far right is after the third wiping.

The second row (marked with blue) is the results with antibacterial wet tissue without alcohol.

The third row (yellow) is for wet tissue without “antibacterial” treatment and the bottom row (green) is for tissue paper wet with tap water.

We may say the anti-bacterial one with alcohol is the most effective since after the third wiping, we can hardly see any bacteria. 

At the same time, it seems that the frequency of the wiping matters most. Please look at the images vertically; none showed a big difference after the first wipe. Also on the far right column, from top to bottom, we can hardly see the bacteria.

4. To prepare your body to fight back against infectious diseases better

As long as we live in a society, we always have a possibility to get infected. Once we get infected, we must rely on our body to fight back, in addition to using vaccinations and medication offered at hospitals.

They say strengthening your immune system and natural healing power are the key. For that purpose, building and maintaining good habits and hygiene help. Some of them are:

  • Sleeping regularly
  • Eating well
  • Keeping yourself clean
  • Having good bowel movement
  • Having a high metabolism, and
  • Enjoying a hobby or something which you know makes you happy      

5. The drawback

As I read some articles to write this, I felt very nervous about coughing people around me.

However, I found that it didn’t improve the situation to say (I tried),

“Don’t touch me!” or

“Don’t come near me within one metre!”

“I saw you cough and you were not covering your mouth properly. You are spreading virus.”

…to anyone, family or friend, with whom I would like to get along well with.

For the time being, I will just wash hands well and carry tissue paper with me.

External Links

[End of the English post]







  1. 感染かんせんはどのようにこるか
  2. ほん防御策ぼうぎょさく1:ひとみをける
  3. ほん防御策ぼうぎょさく2:をちゃんとあらまえかおさわらない


  1. ティッシュのなか
  2. ひじでける


  1. あらいのひん
  2. あらいにかけるかん
  3. あらかた
  4. かわかしかた


  1. マスクについて
  2. メガネをくもらせないマスクのかた
  3. ウエットティッシュによるそうこう
  4. 感染かんせんしょうとたたかうからだつくるには
  5. 問題点もんだいてん


(1) 感染かんせんしょうふせかた:まとめ








(2) ただしいせきとくしゃみのかた








 (3) 感染かんせんしょうぼうするための、あらいのかた























(4) その

























  • 則的そくてきに睡眠を摂る
  • からだにいいものをべる
  • 身体からだ清潔せいけつたも
  • 便通べんつうをよくする
  • 代謝たいしゃげる
  • ぶんよくなれるとわかっているしゅなどを










  • 英文部末尾をご覧ください。



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