Man rubbing his eyes and holding glasses

One of the most important things you can do to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 is avoid touching your face—particularly your eyes, mouth and nose—with unwashed hands, as the virus can enter your body through mucous membranes in those areas.

In general, COVID-19 spreads when droplets and tiny particles breathed out by an infected person are either breathed in by or land on the eyes, nose or mouth of other people.

Droplets and particles can also contaminate surfaces people are likely to touch. That is why we recommend washing your hands frequently in addition to other virus prevention steps such as practicing social distancing and wearing a well-fitting face mask.

Face Touching Is Common

Frequent touching of the face area is a habit most of us have. We brush the hair from our eyes, scratch our noses, rest our chins in our hands, take our glasses on and off, rub our foreheads, and put on and take off our face masks.

Pay attention to how many times you touch your face in an hour. According to one research study, participants touched their faces an average of 23 times per hour, and of those touches, 44 percent came in contact with mucous membranes. Another study found that touching your face may increase your chances of getting COVID-19.

How to Stop Touching Your Face

Fortunately, the same study on how many times a person touches their face also found that by making the participants aware of how often they touched their faces and making them aware of how it has the potential to spread illness, they were less likely to touch their faces.

We have also come up with other ways you can touch your face less often:

    Be aware.

    Pay attention to how often you touch your face. It also helps to take note of how often other people around you touch their faces, as it can increase your awareness.

    Change the way you sit.

    Avoid putting your elbows on tabletops, as this can often lead to your resting your chin on your hands. Instead, you may want to try sitting on your hands or folding them in your lap to keep them away from your face.

    Keep your hands busy.

    A fidget spinner, a rubber band and a stress ball are good examples of objects that can keep your hands occupied and help you reduce unnecessary face touching. You can also try fun activities like coloring or drawing.

    Tie or pin back your hair.

    If your hair is causing you to touch your face frequently, fix it in a way that you don't have to keep pushing it out of your eyes or away from your face.

    Make sure your glasses fit properly.

    Your glasses should not slide down your face. If you need to push them up or take them off, handle your glasses from the sides, not from the bridge or other parts that touch your face.

    Use a tissue.

    If you have an itch or must touch your face for any reason, hold a clean tissue in your hand as you do it.

    Prevent itchiness.

    Use moisturizer to prevent dry, itchy skin. Use eye drops if your eyes are dry and itchy. (Make sure to wash your hands before and after using the eye drops.) Treat seasonal allergies to prevent itchy noses.

    Wear a scent.

    Apply a light perfume or lotion on your hands or wrists you can smell every time you bring your hands to your face.

    Imagine your hands are dirty.

    You can't see the germs on your hand, so pretend that your hands are covered in something visible, like paint or mud. This is more useful in short-term situations like when shopping at the grocery store.

    Wear a mask.

    A face mask can serve as a reminder to not touch your face. However, if wearing a mask makes you fidget, or if you find yourself constantly adjusting the mask, this may not be a good technique for you.

Remember that even as you avoid touching your face, you must continue to wash or sanitize your hands frequently, especially when you go out in public.

Touching your face can be a hard habit to break, so naturally, there will still be times when you will do so unconsciously. Just do your best to avoid touching your face as much as possible, and keep cleaning washing those hands!

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Updated 1/4/2023

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