Life Wellbeing Coronavirus self-protection: How to stop touching your face
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Coronavirus self-protection: How to stop touching your face

Seriously, stop touching your face. It's hard to do, but make an effort and save yourself from infection. Photo: Getty
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One of the key ways of protecting yourself from the coronavirus is to stop touching your face.

This is because your eyes, nose and mouth are the parts of your body where the virus gets into your system.

Because the virus can be picked up from touching hard surfaces, such as the pole you’re hanging on to on the tram or the train, or the basin and bench in your office bathroom, then it’s simply a matter of touching your face (rubbing an itchy eye or nose) for the virus to take hold.

This is why we’re told to wash our hands for at least 20 seconds after travelling on public transport, going to the toilet, spending time in communal areas or … well, the simple thing is to become a hand-washing fiend. Just do it.

Touching your face is a bit like breathing

Still, until you can get to a bar of soap and a sink you’re vulnerable to touching your face.

You’ll do it unconsciously. And you’ll do it a lot.

One study found we touch our faces 23 times an hour, on average.

Get this: Just last week, Dr Sara Cody, director of the Santa Clara County health department, held a press conference urging residents to avoid touching their faces.

“Today, start working on not touching your face – because one main way viruses spread is when you touch your own mouth, nose or eyes,” Dr Cody said during a Friday news conference.

She then licked her finger to turn the page in her notes, a moment that quickly went … viral.

Poor Dr Cody was haplessly demonstrating one of the hard truths of trying to change a habit: The more you think or talk about it, the more you’re likely to do it.

If you want read up on the theories as to why we touch our faces so much, see studies here and here.

The latter suggests it’s to do with emotional regulation and maintenance of working memory.

None of which actually helps us to stop this self-damaging habit.

So what to do?

There is a lot of advice being posted on news and health sites, some of it a bit airy-fairy, some of it sensible and helpful.

We’ve hunted and gathered what seems to make the most sense.

Some tips will help cut down the frequency with which you touch your face, others will lessen the contamination of your fingers.

  • Firstly, scrub all hard surfaces at your work desk and at home, then wash your hands
  • Keep a box of tissues nearby, and when an itch needs scratching, use a tissue instead of your finger
Keep tissues handy. Use them to wipe your face, not your finger.
  • Try setting a phone reminder: “Don’t touch your face.” The more you see the message, the more likely it is to sink in
  • Work as a team with friends and family. Make it a new version of the swear jar. The fact is, we’re all so used to asserting and expressing ourselves, it’s a new habit just to work co-operatively in monitoring and preventing unhealthy habits
  • Start using a squeeze ball or worry beads or something else to keep your hands busy. Whatever you do, give it a frequent wash
  • Use your knuckle to press elevator buttons instead of your fingertip
  • Carry a hand sanitiser and use it frequently
  • Carry tissues to catch sneezes
  • Wash those hands again
  • Go easy on yourself. Cutting down even a little reduces your risk, and gets your mind set that this is a new world that needs to be taken seriously
  • If readers have any helpful suggestions, please let us know in the comments section below.

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