The average person touches their face 20 or more times an hour, which is something we’re all being told not to do as a way of lessening our risk of becoming infected by COVID-19. The virus can live suspended in the air for up to three hours and approximately two to three days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces. Our eyes, nose and mouth are direct openings through which the virus can pass. Every time you touch something, you risk contaminating your hands. Every time you touch your face, you increase your risk of infection.
Why Do We Touch Our Faces So Often?
For humans, touching our faces is a natural
tendency that begins before we’re born. Everybody does it and here are some of
the reasons why:
It starts in the womb. According to several studies, the
instinct to touch our faces begins in utero. It signals healthy development and
is the first sign of sensory nerves developing in the face.
It’s an involuntary response. Touching your face is
a reflex. When you have an itch, your brain tells you to scratch it as a
protective response to what it considers a temporary form of pain.
It can be an unconscious habit. Just like biting your
nails, touching your face can become a habit. The more you do it, the more
chances that it will become a learned behavior.
It’s a form of communication. When you’re listening
intently to someone or concentrating on something you’re working on, your hand
might end up on your chin. Surprised? Your hand might go to your mouth. It’s
one of the main ways we express ourselves.
It’s a coping mechanism. Touching your face is calming and
engages the senses. It causes a unique sensation because our faces and fingers
are very sensitive. Doing so engages a specific area of our brain’s cerebral
cortex, causing a unique sensation.
If you have an itch on your face, your first
reaction is to scratch it with your hands. Instead of instinctively using your
hands, try using your arm. There are other things you can do to help train your
brain to break the habit, including:
Keep your hands busy. If your hands are idle, they often find
their way to your face. Fold some clothes. Squeeze a stress ball or use a
fidget spinner, but make sure to disinfect them often.
Wear jewelry or put a rubber band on. Seeing either will
make you pay attention to your hands more often and make you more mindful of
what they’re doing.
Make a note. Post-it notes are great ways to keep things
top of mind, including not touching your face. Put them around your house and
use different colors to avoid getting used to seeing them.
Use scented soap or sanitizer. The smell will draw
your attention to the location of your hands and make you more aware of what
Lace your fingers. If you’re sitting in a meeting or watching TV,
lace your fingers and place them in your lap.
Wearing gloves. Having gloves on your hands at home may seem
unusual at first, but it can help you break the habit of touching your face.
Strategic use of accessories. For people with long
hair, consider tying it up in a bun to avoid the urge of touching your face to
move stray hairs. Wear glasses to help you stop touching your eyes.
Wear a mask. Leave the N-95 masks for the professionals who
need them and for those who are sick, but wearing a homemade mask can help
remind you to stop touching your face.
Not touching your face is an important step in helping to reduce your chances of being infected by COVID-19. Also, remember to frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and stay at least six feet away from others while in public.