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. 2015 Feb;43(2):112-4.
doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2014.10.015.

Face Touching: A Frequent Habit That Has Implications for Hand Hygiene

Free PMC article

Face Touching: A Frequent Habit That Has Implications for Hand Hygiene

Yen Lee Angela Kwok et al. Am J Infect Control. .
Free PMC article


Background: There is limited literature on the frequency of face-touching behavior as a potential vector for the self-inoculation and transmission of Staphylococcus aureus and other common respiratory infections.

Methods: A behavioral observation study was undertaken involving medical students at the University of New South Wales. Their face-touching behavior was observed via videotape recording. Using standardized scoring sheets, the frequency of hand-to-face contacts with mucosal or nonmucosal areas was tallied and analyzed.

Results: 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.

Conclusion: Increasing medical students' awareness of their habituated face-touching behavior and improving their 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. Hand hygiene is therefore an essential and inexpensive preventive method to break the colonization and transmission cycle associated with self-inoculation.

Keywords: Face touching; Hand hygiene compliance; Medical students; Self-inoculation.


Fig 1
Fig 1
Average number of face touches observed in a 60-minute period.

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