Face Touching Can Increase the Risk of Viral Infection: What to Do About it

Avoid touching your face. Protect yourself from Coronavirus.

You may be surprised to learn that you likely touch your face more often than you realize. Studies show we touch our faces multiple times per hour. This can increase the risk of infection by viruses that can easily enter through the eyes, nose, and mouth. Finding ways to remind yourself not to touch your face and remembering to use hand sanitizer can help ward off illnesses like COVID-19.

Social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands, using hand sanitizer and refraining from touching your eyes, nose and mouth are key activities that can mitigate virus transmission. The coronavirus spreads from person to person, through the inhalation of respiratory droplets and from touching virus contaminated surfaces followed by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. 

A 2008 study in the National Library of Medicine, found that 10 subjects, while observed doing office style work, touched their faces an average of 15.7 times per hour. Another study in the American Journal of Infection Control observed 26 students in South Wales by video and tallied that they touched their faces an average of 23 times an hour, and almost half of these touches were to the eyes, nose, and mouth, the places where a virus wants to go.

What can you do to avoid unintentionally increasing your risk of catching a viral illness from touching your face after touching a contaminated surface? 

  • Hand washing and applying hand sanitizer are so important in lessening the chance of getting sick from a viral infection. Wash your hands often. Wash them vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Whenever and wherever washing with soap and water is not possible, apply a hand sanitizer that has a high alcohol content, such as palmpalm™ hand sanitizer.
  • Wear a cloth face mask to not only help mitigate person to person transmission but also to cut down on the number of times you are able to touch your face. 
  • Be mindful of your actions and keep your hands busy. Place notes nearby to remind you not to touch your face.

Don’t forget to sanitize objects that you or others in your household use often: cell phones, doorknobs, drawer handles, faucets, remote controls, pens, pencils, and other commonly used objects. Viruses may remain viable for hours or days on these surfaces. Human coronaviruses can live on metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days but can be inactivated with 62-71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within 1 minute.

“Healthy habits are learned in the same way as unhealthy ones – through practice.” said self-help author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer. With practice and reminders you can help yourself stay safe and healthy during this uncertain time.