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Not Touching Your Face Is Harder Than It Sounds, Here's How To Stop

Despite the warnings from global health authorities, it can feel like an impossible task to avoid touching your face with your hands.

Many of us are only now realising how often we do touch our mouths, eyes and nostrils with our hands. And it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to curb a habit we have been forming our entire lives -- even in the wake of serious warnings regarding the spread of COVID-19.

How is the virus spread?

Speaking to 10 daily, General Practitioner Dr Amandeep Hansra at Bondi Doctors explained that coronavirus is spread through contaminated droplets.

"Someone with confirmed COVID-19 can pass the virus onto those they have close contact with, or by coughing and sneezing on others. The contaminated droplets can be picked up from objects and surfaces that they have landed on," Dr Hansra said.

"Experts have advised regular hand washing with soap and water and avoiding touching contaminated surfaces to try and minimise the spread of the virus."

The NSW Ministry of Health has provided Australians with a fact sheet that details a number of recommendations regarding the virus.

The health authority is emphasising the importance of hygiene, particularly hand hygiene. It is recommended you wash your hands "thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand rub."

Internationally, the advice is to do your best to avoid touching your face at all, minimising contact with your eyes and mouth in particular.

It's going to be a very difficult habit to shake. Image: Getty

Why do we touch our faces?

At the time of reporting, the coronavirus outbreak has killed three people in Australia and more than 3,800 worldwide.

Officials have warned that as the coronavirus spreads, we should become hyper aware of our hands, eyes, mouths and nostrils.

"Our hands can touch the doorknob or the handrail that has pathogens on it, and if we touch our faces, these pathogens can enter our body through our mouth, nose and eyes," said Dr Hansra.

Despite the warnings, for many of us, touching our faces is a habit we will struggle to shake. According to Dr Hansra, "most of us do it without realising we are doing it."

"A study in 2015 published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that University students touched their faces an average of 23 times per hour," she told 10 daily.

This habit is common amongst humans and studies have suggested it may a way to express emotions or communicate.

"Other studies have shown it may be a way for us to regulate our stress and memory formations. Either way it becomes a habit, that over time is difficult to break."

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What to do to avoid touching your face

Put simply, it's extremely unlikely you will be able to do away with this habit altogether. But you can try the following tactics to minimise the contacts your hands have with your face.

Wear a mask

Medical authorities have advised that Australians need only wear a mask if they or someone they know has been infected by the virus, or if they have the relevant travel history.

Dr Hansra explained that it can be helpful in making you more aware of where you are putting your hands, training your body to avoid this behaviour.

"Some people find if they are wearing gloves or are wearing a mask, this stops them from easily touching their faces. This is probably impractical for most people to do, and not generally advised," she said.

Keep your hands occupied

"Becoming more conscious of a habit helps to break it," said Dr Hansra.

Try keeping your hands occupied in a new way, in order to become aware of where they are and what they're doing. Unearth the fidget spinner you bought during the craze in 2017. Try clenching a stress ball while you sit at your desk.

Whatever you put in your hands, be sure to properly disinfect it and keep it as hygienic as possible. Otherwise the purpose is defeated.

Try to keep your hands occupied. Image: Getty

Keep your hands clean

Ultimately, while you likely cannot keep your hands constantly away from your face, you can make conscious choices to keep your hands as clean as possible.

"The main issue is keeping your hands clean. If you do touch surfaces but you wash your hands before touching your face, it is unlikely you will be spreading contaminated droplets or pathogens to your body," said Dr Hansra.

"Stopping touching your face is much more difficult than washing your hands more frequently. I would advise people to wash their hands more regularly with soap and water."

Featured Image: Getty

Do you have a lifestyle story or personal experience to share with us? Reach out and tell us about it at alenton@networkten.com.au