International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Home Hygiene & Health

The Leading Source of Scientific, Professional & Consumer Information
International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Home Hygiene & Health

The Leading Source of Scientific, Professional & Consumer Information

March 13th: Frequent Face touching is a habit that has implications for hand hygiene and infection

Infections including colds, influenza and other infections may be transmitted by self-inoculation. Self-inoculation can occur when hands contaminated with the organisms makes contact with the mouth, nose or the eyes. Staphylococcus aureus is carried in the nasal mucosa in approximately 25% of the community and can be picked up by the fingers and inoculated into the eyes and into skin cuts and wounds.

A behavioural study of medical students at the University of New South Wales was carried out using videotape recording. Using standardized scoring sheets, the frequency of hand-to-face contacts was tallied and analyzed. On average, each of the 26 observed students touched their face 23 times per hour. Of all face touches, 44% (1,024/2,346) involved contact with a mucous membrane, whereas 56% (1,322/2,346) of contacts involved nonmucosal areas. Of mucous membrane touches observed, 36% (372) involved the mouth, 31% (318) involved the nose, 27% (273) involved the eyes, and 6% (61) were a combination of these regions.

The authors concluded that increasing awareness of habituated face-touching behaviour and improving understanding of self-inoculation as a route of transmission may help to improve hand hygiene compliance. Hand hygiene programs aiming to improve compliance with before and after patient contact should include a message that mouth and nose touching is a common practice.

The study can be found at:  American Journal of Infection Control 43 (2015) 112-4