SALT LAKE CITY — We all know we should be washing our hands for at least 20 seconds, staying six feet apart and limiting contact as much as you can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But, health experts say the simplest way to stop the spread, is to just stop touching your face.
Easier said than done
According to research done at UNSW in Australia, we touch our faces more than 20 times an hour, and almost half of those touches involved contact with a mucous membrane.
It’s those touches that scientists say act as a pathway for viruses and germs to get into your body and infect you.
“Viruses that affect the respiratory system enter the body through mucosal membranes which are found in the nose, oral cavity and lips,” Dr. Dawn Mueni Becker, an infectious disease specialist in Gainesville, Florida told CNN. “With poor hand hygiene, it’s easy to acquire a viral infection this way.”
Another reason that breaking the habit of touching your face is so important is that since the coronavirus isn’t actually alive, it can live on some surfaces for hours or even days.
“We need more hand awareness and actions that are incompatible with touching your face,” he continued.
So how do you stop?
“Avoiding touching your face is more effective than any other medical interventions for stopping the spread of the virus,” said Rice University psychology professor James Pomerantz.
His team of researchers say there are a few simple things that anyone can do in order to condition themselves out of a routine habit like touching your face.
“Many of us have taken a course in introductory psychology where we learned about conditioning and the laws of behavior, and how we can establish and change behavior,” Pomerantz told Chicago’s ABC 7. “We know that this works.”
5 steps to stop touching your face
Pomerantz’s team created an infographic with 5 steps compiled from a number of behavioral scientists to help change the habit of touching your face.
Here are their tips to stop touching your face:
- Increase awareness. Ask a partner to tell you when you touch your face. Wear perfume or bracelets to remind you not to touch your face. Carry a pen and paper to record how often you touch your face each day.
- Help others. Think of the people you are trying to protect by not touching your face. Gently remind others when you notice them touching their face.
- Do other things with your hands. Put your hands in your pockets. Hold a ball or a deck of cards in your hands. Make fists with hands for 1 minute if you bring your hands near your face.
- Change postures. Keep your elbows off the table. Sit in chairs without armrests, or in the middle of the couch. Sit on your hands if it’s hard to not touch your face.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Focus on taking long, slow, deep breaths and on relaxing muscles that feel tense. Sit in a quiet place and focus on the present moment rather than the past or future. Spend time in nature at a safe distance from others, even sitting under a tree.
How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus
COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
- If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
- Get a flu shot.
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707
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