Touching your face is something you need to think about
Published Tuesday, April 14, 2020
One way to reduce your risk of being infected by COVID-19 is to avoid touching your face, but research shows that we touch our faces upwards of 390 times per day, and most of that is done subconsciously. It may not be realistic to stop touching your face entirely, but you can minimize the frequency. All you have to do is think about it.
By Sara Chow
Public health and medical experts have provided tips to the public on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Two of the main points of advice include frequent and proper hand washing and to avoid touching your face. For many people, that’s proving to be easier said than done.
While it might be a challenge, it’s very important that we heed expert advice and avoid touching our faces as much as possible. This is because common spread of respiratory infections comes from the hands to your facial mucous membranes – your eyes, nose and mouth. Together, these are also referred to as your ‘T-zone’, and they are the primary portal to your body’s respiratory system.
Research about face touching, conducted mostly among health care providers, shows that we touch our faces anywhere between 18 and 23 times per hour. If the average person sleeps 7 hours per day, then the math tells us that we touch our faces upwards of 390 times per day. Just reading that probably makes you want to scratch your chin.
Another study focused on breaking down where most face touching occurs on your face, and it showed that more than 50 percent of face touches occur down the middle of your face, where the nose and mouth are.
What’s even more surprising than the amount we’re touching our faces is that most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it. You might think that face touching is a response to itching, grooming or adjusting your glasses, and, some is. However, most touching is actually a subconscious response to anxiety, discomfort or concentration. Some researchers hypothesize that it might actually be a way of self-soothing, controlling our emotions, or maintaining our concentration. Therefore, it is really important in our current situation to be aware of how often we touch our face, and find ways to stop doing it.
Here are some helpful hints to prevent or minimize the risk of touching your face:
- Wash your hands frequently. It’s inevitable that you will touch your face at some point, so making sure that you have clean hands is important.
- If you are sitting in a meeting, watching TV or standing in a line at the grocery store, try keeping your hands folded together.
- Write reminder notes and put them around your space to remind you not to touch your face.
- If you are not in a public setting and scents don’t bother you, try using a scented soap or hand sanitizer that you will smell if you bring your hands to your face. (Scent-free policies exist in most public spaces, including the Hospital. Be respectful and don’t use scented products if you are going to be in public settings.)
It may not be realistic to stop touching your face entirely, but you can minimize the frequency. All you have to do is think about it.