Coronavirus Protection: Why Do We Touch Our Faces and How to Stop it Amidst COVID-19 Outbreak?

stop touching your face
BBC World

Don’t Touch Your Face, is among one of the frequently propagated precautionary measures amidst the outbreak of the Coronavirus. By this time you must have realized that touching your face has been the most challenging task you have to deal with. Centre for Disease Prevention Control (CDC) reports the alarming nature of the past and newly COVID-19 pandemics. Coronavirus is infectious to the respiratory system and spreads mainly by sneezing and coughing of the victim contaminating the surroundings.

Trump touching face

I haven’t touched my face in weeks.

President Donald J. Trump

Let’s have a bird’s eye view on why is it virtually impossible to keep yourself from touching your face or resting your face against your palms. We will also mention some ways to prevent yourself from touching your face to minimize the risk of hosting the most-feared COVID-19.

Don’t Touch Your Face but Why?

The slightest touch of microbes on your fingertips and all up to your face makes the gateways of the virus to enter into your body through your mouth, nose and eyes. And since humans have this unusual habit of touching their faces makes them the most susceptible during the pandemic outbreaks. Mary-Louse McLaws, an infection control expert at the University of North South Wales, Sydney, and her colleagues in small research on medical students find out that on average Human touches their faces 13 times an hour.

Touching certain areas of your face activates some pressure points that then activate Parasympathetic Nerves System which is the thing we make ourselves calms down internally.

Natasha Tiwari

That is why our habit of touching our faces makes us prone to infecting ourselves with the diseases. We are infecting ourselves and even others by touching the contaminated surfaces with hands to our faces.

how to stop touching your face
Credit: Fox News

Why Do We Touch Our Faces?

Why on earth have we developed this habit of touching our faces? I can’t I keep myself from touching my face even while writing this blog? There are various reasons behind face-touching habits and some of them are:

A.     Part of Our DNA

Natasha Tiwari, a psychologist in Weda Group, when interviewed for BBC – How to Avoid Touching Our Face, she explains the reason behind the human’s habit of touching their face.  “Touching our face is part of human’s DNA”, we touch our faces even when we’re in-foetuses in utero. It’s a long-lasting habit and a very addictive habit to let it go.

Telling people to do something that happens unconsciously is a classic problem.

Michael Hallsworth

B. Touching Your Face is In Your DNA

Natasha Tiwari, a psychologist in Weda Group, when interviewed for BBC – How to Avoid Touching Our Face, she explains the reason behind the human’s habit of touching their face.  “Touching our face is part of human’s DNA”, we touch our faces even when we’re in-foetuses in utero. It’s a long-lasting habit and a very addictive habit to let it go.

C. Fundamental Behavioral Characteristic

Humans as a creature are hardwired to the habit of touching. Martin Grunwald, a psychologist at the University of Leipzig, Germany, says that self-touching in this way is a “fundamental behavior of our species”.

Best way to stop touching your face
The best idea to keep your hands from touching your face!

Our species are one of the few in the animal kingdom who are prone to touch their faces frequently. They do it unconsciously particularly in the areas of touching our chins, mouth and of eyes.

D. Reward Associated with C-Tactile Afferents

Touching our faces involves satisfaction and pleasure. Francis McGlone, a professor in neuroscience, explained to ITV News the reasons behind our constant face touching: “We touch our faces a lot because we like it”. Prof. McGlone, explains the likability of our touching is our nervous system, called C-tactile afferents that helps to respond to the reward associates with self-touch.

E. Self-Soothing Mechanism

Self-soothing Mechanism is another thing that triggers self-touching habits, touching our face lowers the stress level, according to Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Some research has shown that skin-to-skin contact results in the release of the hormone oxytocin, which can help to increase calm and reduce stress.

Natasha Tiwari also explains the soothing mechanism in her interview with BBC as, when we touch certain areas of our face what we doing is calming ourselves. “Touching certain areas of your face activate some pressure points that then activate parasympathetic nerves system which is the thing we make ourselves calms down internally”. Our mind in stressful situations unconsciously drags our hands where it can better protect ourselves that is touching the face.

Ways to Reduce the Habit of Touching Our Face

Whilst it’s almost impossible to stop touching our faces however, Natasha Tiwari suggests key ways to make it easier to develop a strategy to prevent self-touches.

1. Replace Contact Lenses with Glasses

One of them is wearing glasses instead of contact lenses, wearing less makeup to prevent more touch-ups throughout the day. It can also be building a habit of locking down one’s hands where one could think he might be touching more of his face in this situation like talking or doing any other casual work where it is easier to allow their hands to land on their face.

2. Try to Be More Mindful when Touching Your Face

“Telling people to do something that happens unconsciously is a classic problem”, says, Michael Hallsworth, a behavioral scientist at Columbia University.  According to him, it is difficult to advise someone not to do an unconscious, Hallsworth, however, believes that it is possible to touch your face for less number of times or not at all as CDC recommends by going for a Conscious Approach Mechanism. It is to be more mindful of how often we touch our faces.

How to stop touching my face

But Professor McGlone in his interview aired on ITV.com mentions that the trouble of reminding oneself not to touch one’s faces develops an enormous urge to keep on touching it and one will think of reasons to do it. Meaning that we have to take other measures to prevent the transmission of diseases into our body, as the challenge of not touching our face is not working.

3. Wear a Mask

For some experts, medical masks don’t necessarily stop the virus completely, but they will make it harder to touch the nose and mouths. “Wearing a mask can reduce the propensity for people to touch their faces, which is a major source of infection without proper hand hygiene,” says Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds, UK.

4. Use Your Arms if Extremely Necessary but NOT Hands!

For a physical need, for example, an itch, one can use his arms. It will less likely to spread the contamination on one’s face giving viruses a gateway to enter in one’s body.

5. Wear Gloves

Wearing gloves though is not ideal as it still can pick up viruses and spread the contamination but disposing off the gloves after each use might help to keep your hands clean. But still even the most diligent of people might struggle to keep from touching their faces completely.

Stay Home, Stay Safe – Spread the Word, Stop the Spread!

Instead, the World Health Organization recommends frequent hand washing, maintaining your distance from others and avoiding physical contact such as shaking hands.

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