The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is highly contagious and transmitted through respiratory droplets. Spend time near someone infected, and those droplets could reach you through the air, or they could land on surfaces you touch later. (Learn More)

Personal Hygiene During the Pandemic: Avoid Bringing COVID-19 to Your Face, Eyes & Mouth

Prevention is the best COVID-19 strategy available, as doctors currently have no reliable treatments or vaccines for the disease. You can lower your infection risk with a few simple, effective hygiene strategies.

  • Limit face and eye touching as much as possible. Recognize how often you touch your face. (Learn More) Once you are aware of your habits, come up with ways to change them. (Learn More)
  • Wash your hands. Scrub often with warm, soapy water. Remember to wash between your fingers and the back of your hands. (Learn More)
  • Wear a face mask. If you must leave your house and you can't stay six feet away from others, face masks offer protection. But wear the wrong one, and you could be tempted to touch your face even more. (Learn More)
  • Clean your home. High-touch items like doorknobs and fridge handles need extra care, but your whole home can benefit from a scrub. (Learn More)
  • Talk as a family. You're all sharing tight quarters during quarantine lockdowns. Ensure you all know and follow the rules. (Learn More)

 

Transmitting Coronavirus Through Touch

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is incredibly contagious, and it's spread all across the globe. By May 2020, almost every country had a reported case, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers have a lot to learn about COVID-19 and how it's transmitted. Experts at the CDC say most people infected with the disease are in close contact with infected people. They spend time less than six feet apart, and they breathe in droplets laden with the virus.

But the CDC also says that COVID-19 droplets could remain infectious for hours or even a few days. If an infected person leaves droplets and you touch them, you could get infected too.

This is why it is so important to practice proper handwashing and sanitizing procedures as well as to refrain from touching your face as much as possible.

 

How to Stop Touching Your Face

People touch their faces a lot. One study showed participants touched their faces 23 times per hour on average.

It’s a hard habit to break, but these tips can help:

  1. Figure Out Your Triggers

Pay attention to how often you touch your face. What happened right before the touch? Are there specific reasons you are touching it? Do certain things or actions make you want to touch it more?

It is highly likely that you touch your face much more than you realize. Before you can learn to stop touching your face, it helps to know when and why you are doing so. Maybe your hair falls into your face a lot, and you repeatedly touch your face when you push it back.

Pay attention. Keep track of when and why you touch your face and eyes and what the circumstances are.

man with cataracts pinching nose

  1. Find a Workaround

Once you know what causes frequent touching, begin to change these habits. Instead of pushing your hair back repeatedly, for example, wear a headband or clip to keep it out of your face.

Do you touch your face when you are nervous? Find a new coping mechanism for nerves, or figure out what is making you nervous and seek to minimize that trigger.

You might touch your face or eyes because they are itchy. Consider a new lotion for your face or eye drops for your eyes to eliminate this issue. Consult with your health care provider to determine what might be causing the itchiness and find a way to minimize your need to scratch.

  1. Use a Barrier

Keep something in your hands, so they can't touch your face so easily. Try:

  • Gloves. These can sometimes work to remind people not to touch their face. The feel of another material on your hands can act as a deterrent, or a reminder to not touch your face.
  • Tissues. Keep a box nearby. Every time you have an urge to touch your face, pick up a clean tissue and use that instead.
  • Washcloths. Keep a cool cloth nearby, and wipe down your face when it itches or feels hot.
  1. Switch Back to Glasses From Contacts

Contact lenses do not increase your risk for coronavirus, but repeatedly touching your face can.

Optometry Times reports that contacts are perfectly safe to wear when used and sanitized correctly. You must wash your hands thoroughly before putting contact lenses in or taking them out. Be sure to disinfect the lenses properly and dispose of them as instructed.

Contact lenses can irritate or dry out your eyes, however. This can lead to increased eye rubbing or touching. If you notice that wearing contact lenses increases the compulsion to touch your eyes, switch back to prescription eyeglasses.

In addition, eyeglasses serve as a barrier between your hands and face. Simply having them on your face can remind you not to touch your eyes or your face.

  1. Keep Your Hands Busy

This is a simple solution that can work well. If your hands are busy with something else, you’ll feel less of an urge to touch your face. A stress ball or fidget spinner can keep your hands moving, and this will prevent them from moving to your face.

 

Wash Your Hands the Right Way

Handwashing remains one of the most effective tools in the fight against COVID-19. But plenty of people don't know how to wash in a way that kills the infection.

Experts say an ideal hand scrub involves five steps:

  1. Rinse. Put both of your hands, from nails to wrists, under a stream of clean, running water.
  2. Soap up. Place a generous amount of soap in your palm, and rub it around both hands. Bubbles are critical, so pulse your hands together until lather forms.
  3. Scrub. Move your hands together for at least 20 seconds. Stop too early, and you may not kill all the active germs.
  4. Rinse again. Run both hands under the stream of clean, running water until all the soap residue is gone.
  5. Dry. Rub your hands on a clean towel, or reach for paper towels.

Scrub after connecting with an infectious agent. That means washing your hands after:

  • Coming home from the grocery store, a walk, or any trip outside of your house.
  • Touching mail or packages.
  • Using public transportation.
  • Visiting the bathroom or helping a child use the bathroom.
  • Blowing your nose or sneezing.

Scrub your hands before:

  • Touching your face and eyes.
  • Preparing or eating food.
  • Caring for someone at home who is sick.

If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizers. Just make sure they contain at least 60 percent alcohol.

 

Wear the Right Face Mask

Many people infected with COVID-19 have no symptoms at all. Some just aren't sick yet, and others will never show symptoms even while sick. Face masks provide vital protection as long as everyone wears them.

If you have the virus and show no symptoms, your mask protects others from the germs you carry. If everyone wore a mask, everyone would protect the communities they live in.

But face masks can be uncomfortable, and you might be tempted to fidget with the device when you wear it. Doing so means touching your face even more, which no one recommends.

Use your mask safely by:

  • Shopping around. Find a mask that feels comfortable while you're wearing it. If elastic loops around your ears chafe, switch to ribbon-tie versions. If the mask slides down your nose, chose a version with a metal nose clamp.
  • Practicing. Wear your mask at home, in your garden, or while watching television. Get used to wearing it while in a safe space before you venture out with it on.
  • Cleaning properly. Wash your hands before you apply your mask. If you accidentally touch your mask while wearing it, wash your hands again.
  • Washing it. Drop your mask in the wash when it's wet or been worn a lot.

The CDC says that masks can't offer the same protection as social distancing. Social distancing (minimizing your contact with people and places) slows the spread of COVID-19 and lowers your risk of contracting the coronavirus. Keep at least six feet away from people you don’t live with, and limit your time out of your house to essential tasks.

Staying six feet away from others is one of the best ways to slow the spread of the virus. But masks offer an added layer of protection for your community.

 

Clean Your Home With Care

Disinfection is critical when someone in your home is sick with COVID-19. But the cleaning you do now could keep germs from taking hold when no one seems sick right now.

Put on your reusable gloves, and prepare to clean your house.

  • Choose the right products. Soap and water reduce germ loads, and disinfectant kills germs. Use this one-two combo where you can.
  • Focus on high-touch areas. Pay special attention to doorknobs, light switches, handles, toilets, and faucets.
  • Launder items. Use the warmest water setting appropriate for the item.
  • Do the dishes. Wash plates, cups, and silverware with hot water and plenty of soap. Run them through the dishwasher on a high setting.

If possible, keep cleansing wipes nearby, so you can wipe down high-traffic areas with a cloth throughout the day.

 

Create a Family Plan

Smiling family have fun at backyard

What happens when you're wearing a mask, cleaning your house, and steering clear from touching your face, but everyone else in your house isn't? It happens. Some people don't take COVID-19 seriously, and their decisions cause household conflict.

Sit down as a family to discuss the issue and come up with a plan. That could include:

  • Signage. Maybe you need reminders to wash hands or clean dishes. Agree on them as a family and hang them in the proper places.
  • Making requests. Explain why you think masks and handwashing are so important. Discuss why people should follow along with your recommendations, even if they don't necessarily agree with all of them. The potential upsides are worth some momentary discomfort.
  • Taking the lead. Be prepared to take on most of the tasks yourself, if no one will do them with you. Perhaps they'll join you later on.
  • Making choices. If you feel upset about others’ choices, sleep in your own room instead and limit your use of communal spaces.

It's a stressful time for everyone. Do your best to give your family the grace and kindness they need to move through this with ease.

 

References

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): World Map. (May 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cleaning and Disinfection for Households. (May 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Face Touching: A Frequent Habit That Has Implications for Hand Hygiene. (February 2015). American Journal of Infection Control.

COVID-19 and Contact Lens Wear: What ODs and Patients Need to Know. (March 2020). Optometry Times.

Handwashing and Coronavirus (COVID-19). (April 2020). American Academy of Family Physicians.

Curb Coronavirus: 13 Ways to Stop Touching Your Face. (March 2020). Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC).

Safely Using Hand Sanitizer. (March 2020). U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

Why Soap, Sanitizer and Warm Water Work Against Covid-19 and Other Viruses. (March 2020). CNN.

COVID-19 Face Masks. (April 2020). American Academy of Physicians.

Will Face Masks Protect You From COVID-19? (April 2020). University of Utah.

If 80% of Americans Wore Masks, COVID-19 Infections Would Plummet, New Study Says. (May 2020). Vanity Fair.

Can ‘Team Science’ Yield a Covid-19 Treatment? (May 2020). The New York Times.

Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings, Especially in Areas of Significant Community-Based Transmission. (April 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home. (April 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ADHD, Personal Hygiene, and the COVID-19 Pandemic. (March 2020). Psychology Today.