Can’t stop touching your face? Do this to slow down the spread of Novel Coronavirus

Dr. Sudhan Panthi

1. Clean your clothes:
Wash the clothes and let them dry completely afterward.
If available, use the warmest appropriate water setting. Also, consider washing the laundry bag that holds your clothes, as that surface may also collect germs.

2. Clean your hands:
Wash your hands with soap and water or sanitize your hands with alcohol based hand-rub (60% alcohol) for at least 20 seconds. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

3. Wear clothes having pockets on it.

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4. Hands in Pockets:
Now put your hands in pockets of clothes you are wearing for the rest of the day as long as it is possible. If for any reason, you need to bring your hands out of your pockets, be aware that you need to put your hands back to your pocket as early as possible but make sure that you clean your hands (as mentioned in step 2) before putting it back to your pockets.

5. End your day with step 1.

Idea behind this method :

Facts check(Reference: WHO, CDC, New England journal of Medicine):

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1. People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment). A study from researchers at the National Institute of Health published on New England Journal of Medicine suggests the virus can live up to four hours on copper, up to a day on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. While the NIH found that fabric does not hold onto the virus as long, clothes still can be exposed to the virus when you are out and about, so it is important to wash after wearing them. If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others.

2. Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water as washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

3. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth as hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

As the coronavirus can’t infect through your hands, so if you never touch your eyes, nose, mouth, you can avoid infection. That’s easier said than done, as we touch our faces several hundreds of times per day.

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While the steps like avoiding close contact, covering coughs and sneezes, wearing a face mask and staying at home if you are sick should be equally kept in mind and strictly followed to protect yourself and protect others, the idea behind Hands in pockets challenge is to design a technique for every people around the world incorporating above three facts to slow down the spread of disease.

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus, which the technique addresses by promoting or making people consciously aware of regular cleaning of hands after it leaves their pockets and before the hands are back to the pockets.

If one never touch their eyes, nose and mouth, they can avoid infection. That’s easier said than done, as we subconsciously touch our faces several hundreds of times per day.

In 2015, a Sydney university observed medical students on video and recorded how many times they touched their faces. Each of them under observation touched their faces an average 23 times per hour. Nearly half of those (44%) involved contact with their eyes, nose or mouth(Source:CNN). Though completely stopping touching your face is a tough task, this technique if taken seriously can help reducing the frequency of touch in faces by making people mindful of where their hands are (outside or in pockets).

To simplify, subconscious movements of hands may be minimized by attention to movements of hands(Mindfulness). Mindfulness practice has been employed to reduce symptoms of depression, to reduce stress, anxiety as well as in the treatment of drug addiction. It might also help to cope with stress during 2019-nCoV outbreak.

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As it is extremely difficult to completely avoid touching your face, it could be made sure that every-time you touch your face, you will be touching with clean hands which is achieved by regular cleaning of your hands and cleaning all “high touch” surfaces daily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cleaning all “high-touch” surfaces daily, including phones, keyboards, tablet computers, tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Moreover, using a scented hand sanitizer or a scented hand soap could help remind yourself to keep hands away from your face as the smell could draw attention to the location of hands.

Cons 

– Summer is approaching at most parts of the world, so it will be impracticable to wear a pullover or jackets to put hands in its pockets. Most shorts, jeans or tracks have got pockets in them. Definitely your swim suit might not have one, but probably it might also not be the suitable time to enjoy sun on a beach wearing your swim suits.

– Understandably it might be more difficult for women/girls to find suitable cloth with pockets, particularly in part of the world like South Asia where wearing Saree is preferred by some, which do not have any pockets. Similar problems might also be elsewhere.

– Not possible while doing exercises. But still being mindful of position of your hand, movements and trying to avoid touching face can be practiced, until you are finished with these activities to go back to the challenge.

– Might not be sensible performing the challenge, when already in isolation.

– This challenge is difficult. Definitely! But if you are convinced that it might help slowing the spread of virus, then it might be not as difficult as loosing your loved ones.

Pros:
– Probably most of us have a pair of clothes with pockets, so do not need to rush somewhere to buy anything extra. We only need to be Safe, Smart, Kind, Supportive, Careful, Alert, Informed, Prepared and Be Ready to fight against this common enemy to mankind.

Common request to Governments around the world:

– This approach can only be successful, if people have got adequate opportunities to clean their hands. This can be attained by placing adequate hand sanitizers at public areas or along areas with common “high touch” surfaces, which could be Public Transportation, ATM machines, Shopping baskets, Elevators, public toilets (Simply surfaces where a lot of hands comes in contact). Grocery stores could be requested to place hand sanitizers, Banks could be requested to place hand sanitizers outside of their ATM machine, etc.

– In developing countries or where hand sanitizers are not readily available, governments should arrange provision of hand-washing by making plans for temporary tap waters or mobile tap waters with adequate soaps or something else similar at adequate places.

– Policy could be made to prevent same thing in future by requesting every shopping stores, businesses, restaurants, etc, to mandatory place hand sanitizers or provide hand washing areas for their customers.

Final words:

We the humans of the world are in a war against this novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). No-one is invincible to this enemy. Surely we will win this war, but we need to win it sooner rather than later and with least possible casualties. To ensure that, we need to act sensibly, think deeply and react aggressively by doing everything possible to slow down the spread of virus, so that the health-workers are not overburdened at a once, so that they can provide the best possible care, and so that they are not compelled to decide whom to leave or whom to care further.

Every government around the world are trying their best to contain the virus. Let us put our ego aside, let us learn from failures, let us give suggestions, let us give ideas. Let us act as a responsible human, let us do everything we can to win this war-To win it sooner rather than later and with least possible casualties, because if it last longer for the virus get defeated, it will win the war for the economical, social and political consequences it subsequently brings. If one of us sink, we are going to sink together. Let us all for once, be a Human.

Sudhan Panthi is a medical doctor from Nepal and currently working in Germany.

Cover Photo : Jackson Gibbs / for NBC News

 

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