WHY DO WE TOUCH OUR FACES?

It is a natural human habit to touch our faces. We may do it to scratch an itchy nose, wipe our mouth or rub tired eyes, but a lot of the time we do it without even thinking about it. Some studies have shown that the average person will touch their face up to 20 times in an hour. Even unborn babies touch their faces in the womb.

The reasons we touch our faces so often are not entirely clear. Some scientists think that we do it to calm ourselves down, or simply because it feels good to us. This is because skin on skin contact releases a hormone called oxytocin, which reduces stress.  We may also do it to express our emotions, or to help make a point during a discussion.

WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK?

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is believed to spread mostly by droplets from people coughing and sneezing, which then get inhaled by other people. However, these droplets can land on surfaces which we then touch. The coronavirus enters the body through the mucus membranes, which line the mouth, nose and eyes. This means if we touch our face after touching a contaminated surface, we can easily become infected. Even if we wash our hands thoroughly before touching our faces, there is still a risk of infection. It is therefore important that we make an effort to break this habit of touching our faces so often.

HOW CAN WE STOP OURSELVES FROM TOUCHING OUR FACES?

Develop self-awareness: bearing the information above in mind, every time you touch your face, notice it and think about the feeling that triggered it. You will gradually become more aware of yourself doing it and be more able to break the habit. You can also ask the people around you to point out when you touch your face, and you can do the same for them.

Create new responses: when you feel the urge to touch your face, create a new response to this feeling. For example, you can clench your fists, sit on your hands, or clap your hands together.

Barriers: Glasses and face coverings (like masks) can help protect you from coronavirus by shielding your eyes, nose and mouth from large droplets. They can also stop you from touching your face – by reminding you that you should not touch your mouth, nose or eyes. However, if you touch the mask or glasses with unclean hands, you still run the risk of infection. Avoid touching the mask while using it. If you need to remove or adjust your mask, wash your hands before and afterwards. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth when putting on or removing your mask.

Use the back of your arm: If you have an itch or have something on your face and therefore cannot avoid touching it, use the back of your arm instead of your hand, as your arm is less likely to have been in contact with a contaminated surface.

Avoid makeup: if you usually wear makeup and apply a lot of products to your face, then it is best to avoid this to reduce contact with your face.

Although it is difficult to break this natural human habit, it is very important that we all make an effort to do so to avoid becoming infected with the coronavirus and infecting others around us.

 

Picture Credit: Reliant Medical Group