Why easiest way to stop virus is so hard
It's something we all do every day, multiple times, usually without even a second thought - which is what makes it so hard to avoid.
But experts have warned people to stop touching their faces if they want to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The problem with the habit we're all guilty of is that the eyes, nose and mouth are all mucous membranes and can act as entry portals for germs and microbes.
So if your hand has picked up an airborne COVID-19 particle and you rub your eyes, the chances are you'll transfer the virus into your system.
According to one study, published in theJournal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, people touch their faces around 16 to 23 times an hour.
While face touching isn't a problem per se, it is likely your hands will have been in contact with a variety of potentially unhygienic surfaces first.
Health researcher Dr Nancy C. Elder said while people understand the importance of handwashing, it is time to enforce a similarly strong message regarding face touching.
"Scratching the nose, rubbing your eyes, leaning on your chin and your fingers go next to your mouth - there's multiple ways we do it," said Dr Elder, reports The New York Times.
"Everybody touches their face, and it's a difficult habit to break."
Australian health experts have said they encourage people to abstain from touching their faces and if they do so to make sure they have used hand-sanitiser first.
"The public health message is this: try very hard to keep your hands away from your nose, mouth and eyes," said Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an infection control expert from the University of NSW, reports The Sydney Morning Herald .
"If you need to touch them, carry some alcohol-based hand rub and decontaminate them."
In addition to handshaking and face-touching, warnings are also being issued to Australians about taking precautions when using public transport, stairs and escalators.
Speaking on Sunrise on Tuesday morning, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said his advice to people was to do as much as they could to personally "avoid the possibility of transmissions".
"Do not shake hands," Mr Hazzard said. "Unfortunately this virus lasts quite a while … on hard services. "For example, if you're on a bus or a train or walking down steps, and you put your hand on the banister, you could pick up the virus."
Following news the first human-to-human transmission of coronavirus inside Australia was confirmed, Mr Hazzard told reporters yesterday people needed to take "sensible steps" to protect themselves.
"I won't be changing anything about what I do on a day-to-day basis. I will still be enjoying eating at a Chinese restaurant, I feel totally and absolutely safe in that situation," he said.
"I also think it is a sensible step though for us all to recognise that trying to make sure there is no transmission to any of us that may had exposure.
"It is a very Australian thing to do to put your hand out and shake hands for example. I would be suggesting it is time that Aussies actually gave each other a pat on the back for the time being. No hand shaking, it's not necessary."
Mr Hazzard also said that while he wouldn't tell people to stop kissing, they should "exercise some degree of caution" when doing so.