A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Hands off your face

Resisting the urge to touch your face, or teaching your kids to keep their hands away from their mouth, might be what helps keep you and your family healthy this cold and flu season.

Touching your face provides an opportunity for viruses to enter

Whether you realize it, every time you touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you are transferring bacteria from your hand to your face. This is a primary way germs spread from contaminated surfaces to your face.

“We are constantly touching objects that contain bacteria and pathogens. The bacteria can enter the body through mucous membranes, such as our eyes, nose and mouth, or by touching our face or not washing our hands correctly prior to eating,” said Joy Hessel, family medicine nurse practitioner with Marshfield Clinic Health System.

“For example, if you are fatigued and rub your eyes or if you bite your fingernails, you are allowing bacteria and pathogens to easily enter your body and get into your respiratory tract and other areas.”

Young girl remembers to wash her hands and keep her hands off her face

Whether you realize it, every time you touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you are transferring bacteria from your hand to your face.

Help prevent bacteria from entering your body

“Frequent hand washing is an excellent way to prevent bacteria and pathogens from entering the body. This is the best defense to keep our bodies healthy and prevent illness,” Hessel said.

If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer to clean your hands. Wash your hands before and after eating and after sneezing or coughing.

Regularly disinfect heavily-touched household items including:

  • Doorknobs
  • Soap dispensers
  • Phones
  • Light switches
  • TV remotes
  • Toys

It may be more difficult to keep children from touching their face. Help curb their eye-rubbing or mouth-touching tendencies by keeping tissues on hand to blow their noses or rub their eyes, keep their hair out of their faces to keep them from touching their face to move it back or try giving them something to do with their hands, such as providing a fidget spinner, puzzle or other toy.

Can’t stop touching your face? These tips might help.

Telling yourself to not touch your face as often sounds simple. However, you’re often doing it without realizing it. To help break the habit, note when you’re touching your face and what triggered the touching.

“Chewing gum can help deter someone from biting their fingernails. Wearing glasses rather than contact lenses, if feasible, can limit someone from touching their eyes. If you need to wipe your face, use a tissue rather than your hand, and wash your hands afterwards,” Hessel said.

While there are times we have to touch our face, be intentional about it. If you are going to touch your face or have your hands close to your face from things like putting contacts in or eating, wash your hands first.

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