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COVID-19 is a new infection - it was only discovered in December 2019. As there is no vaccine for it yet, it is critical that we follow the precautions to a T. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), there are five things you can do to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus

The recommendation for not touching your face stems from our understanding of how viruses travel. One of the ways you can contract the coronavirus is by touching a contaminated object and then proceeding to touch your face before washing your hands. The virus would transfer from your hands to your face and can enter the body through the mucous membranes of your mouth, nose or eyes. 

But it is easier said than done to stop touching your face completely. Often, it’s a completely unconscious action on our part, which means we wouldn’t even realize how often we do it. A small study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene in 2008, found that we touch our faces 15.7 times per hour. Another study, with medical students, found that they touched their faces 23 times in an hour and 44% of the time, they ended up touching a mucous membrane.

To break this habit, we have a few ideas that you could try: 

  1. Start counting
  2. Remove triggers
  3. Try replacing the habit
  4. Keep your hands busy
  5. Use a reminder
  6. Set a penalty
  7. Take care of your eyes
Doctors for How to stop touching your face

Whether you use an app, your daily planner, or just a piece of paper, try keeping a count of the times you touch your face. It’s just about paying a little more attention to your actions. Research shows that as long as you keep counting, the action will be repeated less often compared to before - when you would touch your face whenever you felt the urge to. This would need to be a long-term solution though because once you stop tracking it, you might go back to touching your face often. 

Read more: Can coronavirus spread through clothes and shoes?

Paying more attention to this habit will help you take note of when and why you do it. The triggers can be common, like biting of nails when you’re stressed or anxious, scratching an old scar when you’re bored, picking at chapped lips or tucking your hair back. There are some specific ways to deal with these triggers - like cutting your nails really short or putting a bad tasting/smelling nail paint on them. For a scab or scar, use a bandage or thick layer of vaseline to cover it, so that every time you reach for it, you realize what you’re doing. For chapped lips or even dry skin overall (which could make your skin feel itchy), you must stay hydrated and do your entire skincare routine after washing your hands thoroughly and carefully. Use a stick or tube lip balm during the day, instead of a pot. Keep your hair neatly tied back so it doesn’t touch your skin or eyes. If your trigger is something more unique, try coming up with an appropriate solution for it. 

Read more: How to deal with the anxiety of living through a pandemic

Trying to break this habit can be tough - and you may sometimes not be able to think about anything but the need to touch your face. The need may even intensify if you try to repress it for too long. In such situations, you can try replacing the urge to touch your face with a different action - like scratching your arm or rubbing the back of your hand. Slowly, you may be able to trick your brain into being satisfied with the alternate action when you feel the urge to touch your face.

Another option to reduce touching your face is to keep your hands occupied with something else, especially during the times when you touch your face the most. For example, if you have a habit of touching your face when you’re watching television, try picking up knitting or even just a Rubik’s cube to solve alongside. If you do it more when you’re on the phone or reading, you could keep a stress ball at your desk to help you out.

Read more: COVID-19 prevention steps for office after the lockdown

A simple reminder can also help. Whether you want to use the screensaver on your laptop and phone, place a mirror in front of your desk or wherever you spend most of your time, place sticky notes wherever you’ll see them the most or wear a new ring or bracelet to serve as a reminder to not touch your face, is obviously up to you.

If that doesn’t work, you can go on the offensive with a face cover or the roughest pair of gloves you can find. Wearing a face cover all the time helps avoid hand and mouth/nose contact but it isn’t easy by any means, so tell yourself that the only way to get rid of it is to not touch your face. Scratchy gloves could make touching your face more uncomfortable, which may decrease the urge to do it. You must remember to keep your gloves clean at all times though or they could transfer microbes to your face as well. 

Read more: Face covers to battle COVID-19

Penalize yourself every time you touch your face in the day. Find (or make) a piggy bank, keep it in an accessible place, and put money in it every time you touch your face. Some people do this to avoid swearing around the kids but it can be used to break any bad habit. You could donate the money you collect to a good cause at the end of this - or to a political party you hate, if that makes your will to stop touching your face stronger.

Sitting at home and working (or watching movies) all day long can take a toll on your eyes. They might start feeling heavy or itchy which may make you want to rub them often. This is why it’s important to take a break from screens every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and ensure that you get adequate rest at night as well. If your eyes are feeling dry, you can even try using a humidifier. 

Wearing contacts can also make you want to touch your eyes more often. It’s a good idea to skip wearing contact lenses for now and fall back on spectacles. Make sure your glasses fit well, though, or you’ll keep touching your face while trying to adjust them. 

Read more: Itchy eyes

Dr. Arun R

Dr. Arun R

Infectious Disease
5 Years of Experience

Dr. Neha Gupta

Dr. Neha Gupta

Infectious Disease
16 Years of Experience

Dr. Lalit Shishara

Dr. Lalit Shishara

Infectious Disease
8 Years of Experience

Dr. Alok Mishra

Dr. Alok Mishra

Infectious Disease
5 Years of Experience


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