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I'm an Infectious Disease Doctor and Would Never Touch This

Hint: It’s something most of us touch nearly 4,000 times per week 

You know by now that COVID-19 is primarily spread person-to-person via respiratory droplets produced when an infectious person talks, sneezes, or talks. However, those tiny droplets can also end up contaminating various surfaces, living on them for up to a few days. Elevator buttons, stair rails, ATM machines, credit card terminals, and other people's hands are just a few of the things you should be very cautious about touching in order to avoid contracting COVID-19. But, according to one infectious disease doctor, if you want to stay coronavirus-free there is one single thing you should avoid touching at all costs: your face. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


How Does Virus Infects Your Body

touching face

No matter what you touch—even if you come into direct contact with the virus itself and it is covering your hands or are wearing surgical gloves—you aren't going to become infected with it unless it has a point of entry. 

"In order to become infected with this virus, it needs to have contact with mucous membranes," Jaimie Meyer, MD, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist and assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine, explains to Eat This, Not That! Health. "Therefore, your face is the number one place you should not touch during this pandemic because when you do, you could be delivering the COVID-19 virus right to the front door entry point of your body."


Why Gloves Won't Keep You Safe

Frustrated tired man in protective gloves on hands and medical face mask feeling headache.

Unfortunately, most of us are constantly touching our faces. One study found that the average person makes hand-to-face contact 23 times per hour. Of all the face touches, researchers found that 44% involved contact with a mucous membrane. Of mucous membrane touches observed, 36% involved the mouth, 31%  the nose, 27% the eyes, and 6% were a combination of these regions.

Remember, putting on a pair of surgical gloves does not exempt you from potential face-touching contamination. Whether the virus hits your skin, rubber, and latex, it can still be transmitted the same way. 

RELATED: I'm a Doctor and Here's When You Can Safely Keep Your Mask Off


How to Keep Your Face Clean

Girl washing her hands under running water in a black washstand

The CDC reminds that many germs—not just coronavirus—can be spread via your hands. In addition to avoiding touching your facial area—which all of us are probably going to do on occasion regardless—they recommend practicing hand hygiene. "Washing hands can keep you healthy and prevent the spread of respiratory and diarrheal infections from one person to the next," they explain on their website. 

While washing hands with soap and water is the recommended way to get rid of germs, if soap and water are not available, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer—that contains at least 60% alcohol—is the next best option.


Also Be Aware of Bathroom Door Handles

Door handle open to toilet can see toilet

As for the runner-up of the worst things to touch, during the pandemic and even after? The bathroom door handle.

"Bathroom door handles are super high-touch surfaces that are riddled with bacteria anyways and are a place where the COVID-19 virus can linger as well," Dr. Meyer says. "Public bathroom door handles are places you should not touch." Instead, she suggests using your foot to open doors on the way in and using a paper towel on the way out. "Or if you must open it by hand, immediately wash your hands or use hand sanitizer to get your hands clean."


How to Stay Safe During the Pandemic

Doctor show rapid laboratory COVID-19 test for diagnosis new Corona virus infection

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask up, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Emilia Paluszek
Emilia specializes in human biology and psychology at the University at Albany. Read more about Emilia