Black-light experiment reinforces COVID-19 medical message: Don't touch your face

Published: Mar. 19, 2020 at 6:43 PM CDT
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You've heard us relay advice from doctors for weeks now -- during this pandemic, it's important to wash your hands and not touch your face.

Dr. David Quimby is the medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at CHI Health.

“Don’t touch your face,” he said. “It's a respiratory infection which includes the airways and the lungs -- that's the portal of entry and the portal of exit. If you have a bad lung infection, every breath that comes out has little droplets of viral particles in it.”

How easy is it to get germs from our hands to our faces and vis-versa? 6 News decided to put it to the test under a black light.

This lotion glows under a black light. A few people in our newsroom put it on and went about our day to see where our new easy to spot germs would spread.

While trying not to touch our faces it made us wonder: Why do we do it so much in the first place?

“Habit!" Quimby said. "The brain has a lot of nerve endings devoted to sensation of the face and of the hands. So a small stimulation on the face you will actually pay a lot more attention to than your back or your leg or your foot.”

That means we're geared to put our hands near our nose and mouth, where COVID-19 thrives, then spread those germs onto our desks and homes.

Dr. Quimby said you can't stop cold turkey, but there are a few things we can do to break the habit.

“You have to replace it with something else," he said. "Touch your face with a tissue, then immediately wash your hands. A lot of people wear fit bits and smartwatches, there are actually some apps that if your hand is moving up to the geographic area of your face, it will buzz.”

Even with the lotion on we failed -- hard.

“If you pay attention to it, you do it a lot more often than you think,” Quimby said.

If you know this is going to be a difficult habit to break, there are a few extra things you can do to mitigate the amount of germs you're spreading, he said.

“The more one cleans their skin, theoretically, the less germs would be there," he said. "So if you have someone that isn't doing any face or hand hygiene throughout the day theoretically they will have more than someone who is doing hygiene.”

A rinse-and-dry isn't going to cut it either.

“Good personal hygiene," he said. "Keep them clean, keep them clean.”

Washing for a full 20 seconds, making sure to get every part of your hand and wrist, is important.

Washing your hands and working to break the habit of touching your face are two directions we'll be hearing for weeks because both make a difference.

LILEANA IS LIVE: Don't touch your face!

Lileana Pearson WOWT joins us with an experiment to show us why we shouldn’t touch our faces during the COVID-19 outbreak. Details:

Posted by WOWT 6 News on Thursday, March 19, 2020