Let’s face it, we all touch our face automatically every now and then on a daily basis. We do it the moment an itch is felt on the eyes or nose, while some of us still use the back of our hands to wipe our mouths.
Its a natural reaction, but the problem is, this increases the chance of contracting diseases and infections, even the latest Covid-19 virus.
Viruses can enter body easily through the eyes, nose and mouth. Touching dirty surfaces will allow viruses to latch on to your fingers and once you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, there is nothing you can do to stop them from entering your body.
Like many various respiratory infections, Covid-19 can be transmitted from person to person according the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Droplets are produced when someone carrying the Covid-19 virus sneezes, and from these droplets, microdroplets have been found to remain in the air up to 20 minutes after the person sneezed, unless they are dispersed by moving open air. People can be easily infected when they breathe in these microdroplets into their lungs, or by accidentally touching their eyes and mouth with their hands.
Avoiding the virus is near impossible especially when its already on a surface, though we take precaution by avoiding people we know who are ill, and wear a face mask for protection.
For 3 hours, 10 people were observed alone in an office environment for a study. All the people touched their faces for an average of 16 times per hour according to the study.
Another study conducted in Australia found 26 medical students touched their faces 23 times each hour. It was observed that the parts of the face almost half of the students commonly touched were the eyes, nose and mouth.
Even the learned ones who should know better, i.e., the medical professionals, were found touching their faces for an average of 19 times over a 2-hour period. Worse still, it was also alarming to see that proper hand hygiene procedures were not consistently followed.
“When actively working, people will often shake their foot, play with their hair, or in these instances, touch their faces. It certainly helps to know when you are most vulnerable to such activities and try to stay aware, during the meeting, or phone call, or while engrossed in work,” said a double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine, Dr. Alex Dimitriu, from Menlo Park, California.
We are advised to wash our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Having said that, avoiding to touch our faces goes hand in hand with the previous precautionary step, as we are unaware of what we have touched and what we picked up along the way.
The CDC says that five simple steps can make handwashing effective which are: wetting, lathering, scrubbing, rinsing and drying.
But with our habit of touching our faces so frequently, chances of infection by our hands that are re-contaminated after washing is also relatively high. Touching any object that other people have also touched re-contaminates your hands all over again.
“A new ring, jewelry, or even a rubber band around the wrist can serve as a reminder to increase awareness of the hands, and ideally to remember to not touch your face,” said Dimitriu. “Something needs to be different, however, to encourage ‘different’ and nonautomatic behavior.”
It’s a habit you can break
The following tips and advice on how to avoid touching your face during the Covid-19 pandemic were suggested by Zachary Sikora, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital in Huntley, Illinois.
“Be mindful about your intention to keep your hands away from your face. Just a brief pause can help you be more aware of what you’re doing with your hands,” he said.
Placing reminders like Post-it notes in homes or offices helps too, according to Zachary, as its easy to see and help one to remember the importance of keeping your hands steer clear from the face.
“Keep your hands busy. If you’re at home watching TV, try folding laundry, sort through mail, or hold something in your hands,” Sikora explained, adding that even holding onto a tissue is one way to keep your hands occupied and away from your face.
A scented hand sanitizer or a scented hand soap was recommended by Sikora to prevent the hands from touching the face. According to Sikora the scent will draw a person’s attention to the location of their hands.
Another method he recommended is to interlock your fingers together and place them in your lap when you are attending a meeting or sitting in a class.
Lastly, Sikora says wearing gloves can be an effective reminder that you touch your face habitually.
“You can wear gloves when you’re out in public and most likely to be exposed by touching surfaces that have the virus,” said Sikora. “Then remove them when you get to your destination. It may be unusual, but wearing gloves at home can also help you break the habit of touching your face.”
Your eyes, nose and mouth are the easiest body orifices for viruses to enter. Always keep your hands clean and remember to AVOID touching these three areas in order not to contract Covid-19 or any other airborne disease for that matter!
8th May 17:50