stop touching your face! it can help you stay healthy

Looking for an easy way to reduce your risk of catching the flu or other viral illnesses? Try not to touch your face.

It’s a step doctors are urging people to take as California faces a “tripledemic” threat — with flu, coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, hitting high levels all at once across the state. moving on.

UC San Francisco Associate Dean Dr. “One point I want to emphasize again … avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth,” Ralph Gonzales said at a recent campus town hall. “Very good studies have shown that if we can double our efforts to be vigilant about this, it will increase our chances of staying flu-free.”

The risk is that some viruses can survive on hard surfaces for several days. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people can become infected with the flu and RSV by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their face.

In contrast, coronavirus usually spreads through the air. Touching contaminated surfaces is not a major contributor to infection. Flu and RSV can also be spread by droplets sent into the air when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk, which then land in other people’s mouths or noses.

However, this simple-sounding advice may be easier said than done. Touching your face can also be an instinctive or subconscious act that some research indicates may help us cope with anxiety and distress, or may be related to negative or unsatisfying feelings.

And it happens a lot. A 2015 study caught medical students touching their faces an average of 23 times per hour in class.

But with flu season in full swing and some children’s hospitals already packed with RSV patients, officials are urging residents to do their part to reduce transmission of the viral pair.

Here are some tips on how to train yourself to avoid touching your face. It is not impossible; Politicians, for example, “learn through extensive training to refrain from touching their faces during public speaking,” Martin Grunwald, author of a book on face touching, “Homo Hapticus,” told The Times in 2020. said in an email. Nevertheless, “this behavior requires extreme self-control and is extremely difficult.”

  • Start by being mindful of when you touch your face, catching yourself when — and, preferably, before — you do it.
  • If you catch yourself before touching your face, consider linking your hands or doing something else with them.
  • Have itching? Try to ignore it. If it bothers you, wash your hands, then scratch it, then wash your hands again. Or buy sterile wooden tongue depressors to use as a tool to relieve itching.

Officials say that regular hand washing is also an important step in helping prevent the spread of the viral. When soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer can work in a pinch.

In addition to such behavioral considerations, officials recommend getting a flu shot if you haven’t already — as the vaccine will provide protection against infection and serious illness. And there are early indications that this year’s flu shot is “well-matched to the circulating strain,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden.

According to the CDC, the rate of flu hospitalizations across the country is the highest for this time of year since the 2010-11 season. And “this is just the beginning,” says UC San Francisco infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong told his colleagues at the campus town hall. “We’re a little worried looking at these numbers.”

The CDC considered a “high” level of flu activity in California for the week ending Nov. 12, according to the most recently available data. The nation’s four other most populous states also had “high” levels of flu activity: Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.

In California, the initial hot spot remains the southeastern corner of the state — San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties — but overall flu activity is increasing across the state, the data show. The pressure of respiratory illnesses has prompted some hospitals in San Diego County to use overflow tents outside their emergency departments.

In Los Angeles County, flu positivity rates are rising rapidly. At least one flu-related death has been confirmed in the region since early October.

County Health Officer Dr. Mantu said, “Here in LA County, it is fairly clear that we are seeing a high level of activity for this time of year, and we are seeing an uptick in the proportion of samples testing positive for the flu. seeing growth from.” Davis said.

At this point, there is no vaccine available for RSV — making personal precautions all the more important. Along with handwashing, experts recommend covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze and staying home when you’re sick to help prevent the virus from spreading. Some people may also consider wearing a well-fitting mask in crowded or indoor settings.

Given the current level of spread of the coronavirus, LA County officials now strongly recommend the wearing of masks in indoor public places.

“Masks will provide protection against RSV and flu in the same way that they provide protection against COVID transmission,” Davis said.

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