Coronavirus: Why do we touch our faces so much?

  • Video report by ITV News Video Producer Natalia Jorquera

Studies have shown on average we touch our face more than 20 times an hour.

But this behaviour can increase the risk of us catching coronavirus, which is why health officials want us to stop, but why do we always want to reach for our face?

Francis McGlone, a professor in neuroscience, explained to ITV News the reasons behind our constant face touching: "We touch our faces a lot because we like it, basically there is a system of nerves in the skin called C-tactile afferents, basically respond to the reward associated with self-touch.

"Touching our face lowers our stress levels. There are two main ways people catch viruses, from person to person - like if someone sneezes near you and you inhale those particles - or touching something contaminated.

"And even though we are hopefully all washing our hands more often because we touch our faces so much, there's actually a high chance we're recontaminating our hands in between washes."

Why do we find it so hard to not touch our face?

People touch their face on average more than 20 times an hour. Credit: ITV News

Touching your face is a natural response, but it is possible to limit doing so - you just need to exercise some self-control.

"Unless we take some conscious top-down approach and say 'yes I'm not going to touch my face' the trouble is, when you do that you start thinking about that and if I tell you to stop touching your face, you'll have this enormous urge to keep on doing it and you'll think of reasons to do it," said Professor McGlone.

He recommends finding other distractions to prevent yourself from doing so, like touching another area with nerve endings: "Try to think whenever you want to touch your face, let me do this instead and these nerve fibres here also called C-tactile afferents will help relax and reassure you."

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know