(CNN) – We wash our hands, stay home and stand 6 feet apart. What else can we do to limit the spread of Covid-19?
Public health experts say not enough is being done to combat facial touch – something that could make a huge difference in coronavirus transmission.
The challenge, says Susan Michie, director of the Center for Behavioral Change at University College London, is frustratingly simple. It is much, much more difficult not to do something than to do something.
We touch our face for many reasons: grooming, gesturing, scratching. It can even be comforting during stressful times. According to one study, people touch their face about 23 times an hour.
To overcome these ingrained habits, Michie recommends making a conscious effort to keep your hands below shoulder level at all times.
The face, especially what doctors call the T-zone of your eyes, nose and mouth, is an important route for the novel coronavirus to transmit. If you touch the mucous membranes in your nose, mouth, and eyes after touching infected surfaces and objects – what scientists call fomites – you can become infected. And conversely, if you are already infected, you can spread the virus by touching those parts of your face and then touching surfaces.
“If you had never touched your face, it wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t washed your hands. Your hands could be as dirty or contaminated as you like, ”says Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology at University College London. “The only reason it matters is that your hands come into contact with a mucous membrane at some point. It is the mucous membranes that are the key … (they) act as the pathway into the body. “
So what exactly can we do to stop touching our faces?
Floating Doctors, an American medical aid group, has a proposition born of experience. It is recommended that people use a head net when going out – like those used to protect against mosquito bites.
“They are absolutely comfortable and you can see very well,” said Dr. Ben LaBrot, Founder of Floating Doctors and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medical Education at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. “You wear it over your hat.”
Listing for a headnet on Amazon.com.
“The mind is well aware of the barrier so you don’t even really reach up to it,” he said, adding that head nets are available for as little as $ 5 at outdoor retailers.
Another strategy West recommended was to develop a “counter-habit”. “The trigger detects your hand moving towards your face. An obvious thing is to distract it and scratch the back of your head.
“A couple of people contacted me to say they put something on their hands to make it more mindful, like a scent,” West continued. “What you’re trying to do is bring (the action) into consciousness.”
A team of Seattle entrepreneurs focused on the angle of awareness last month introducing a $ 50 bracelet that vibrates when the wearer brings their hand near their face.
West said the “hardest nut to crack” is the itchy face.
“It has become itchy for us. Historically, ticks or other insects have landed on our faces and buried in our skin – that would have been quite dangerous for us. “
If he’s itchy, West uses a Zen response: “I can tell. I don’t fight it, but I don’t give in, so to speak. You can see it, but you don’t have to act on it. “
West said he was “amazed” that no more had been done to encourage people not to touch their faces given the crucial role behavior plays in spreading the virus.
He said we need to get to a point where someone who touched his face in public would trigger an “ewww”.
“We have to realize that you can’t even touch your face. It would be like taking your pants off in public. “
The CNN wire
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