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Why do we touch our faces so frequently and how do we stop?

Posted at 1:47 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 23:33:04-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Don’t touch your face – that’s the message we’ve been hearing over and over during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it is a habit that many of us do constantly, and we may not realize just how frequently it happens.

Experts say people do it dozens - or even hundreds - of times a day, and many likely started off doing it in the womb. But they say touching your face can make you sick if your hands are dirty.

They said viruses and bacteria can be transmitted through mucous membranes in your eyes, nose and mouth.

But why do people touch their faces so frequently?

Allergy season isn’t helping.

News 3 Meteorologist April Loveland weighed in.

“The season has definitely been rough,” April said. “Our pollen levels are very low today, but unfortunately when the sun shines again, those pollen levels are going to go back up.”

She said the rain is helping the pollen levels on Monday, but it is expected to go back up this week.

High pollen levels can aggravate allergies and cause people to have itchy eyes, runny noses and other symptoms.

It’s not just allergies causing people to touch their faces. Experts say touching your face can provide a calming effect.

“[It] activates to some degree the pleasure centers in our brain, and that’s why it will have some level of soothing type of outcome for us when we do it,” said Kurt Hooks, the CEO of the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center.

Hooks said people may do it more when they are under stress, especially as the coronavirus pandemic causes concern for many.

“With all of the information that’s flowing in, it’s causing so much distress, fear and uncertainty around the pandemic and the economic distress that people are grappling with right now,” said Hooks.

Experts suggest to first be aware that you are touching your face, identify any triggers that may cause you to do it more frequently, put something into your hand to distract yourself from doing it and wear a mask.

Dr. Ryan Light with the Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group said you can decrease your changes of getting the coronavirus if you don’t touch your face.

If you do need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.

Dr. Light said, “If you’re going to touch your face with dirty hands, you could be spreading the disease to yourself. It’s okay to touch your face, your nose, your mouth if your hands are clean. It’s just like when we eat; your hands should be be clean before you touch any of your food.”

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