Can germs travel from cheek to mouth?
April 26, 2013 2:12 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to get sick less often. I notice that I touch my face frequently - itchy nose, eye allergies etc. I am going to stop doing that. However, do I also need to stop touching my face entirely? I like resting my chin on my hands. What if my cheek is itchy? From research on google, you're supposed to stop touching your face. Can germs actually travel from cheek to mouth, etc? Is this advice just to stop touching mucus membranes? By germs I mean common bacteria and viruses. Thank you!
posted by puertosurf to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just wash your hands more often.
posted by phunniemee at 2:14 PM on April 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Which is to say, your hands should not be so germy as to be a threat to your immune system simply by itching your cheek. Keep your hands clean, and proceed as normal.
posted by phunniemee at 2:15 PM on April 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also clean your mouse and keyboard, or workspace.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:50 PM on April 26, 2013

The advice is to stop touching mucus membranes. Your face (chin and cheeks) isn't likely to have disease carrying germs, it's more that your hands are dirty from touching door knobs, faucets, ATM buttons, ink pens, handles, elevator buttons, etc., and then touching your face, i.e. your mouth or eyes. Frequent hand washing is the key and not rubbing your eyes or mouth. It's very easy to touch 7 or 8 surfaces while at Starbucks and then tear off a piece of muffin before you've had a chance to wash your hands.
posted by shoesietart at 3:52 PM on April 26, 2013

One other piece of advice I got a few years ago was to gargle with salt water (or if you can't, drink hot tea throughout the day) and use a sinus rinse twice a day. The theory was that you'd end up washing the germs out of your nose and throat before you ended up sick. I was skeptical, but on the other hand, I've gotten sick much less frequently the last few years. *shrug*
posted by instamatic at 4:18 PM on April 26, 2013

If you must touch your face, use the back of your hand or a sleeve or something.

But yeah, not touching your face is going to help. Perhaps not in a qualtifiable way, but it for sure won't hurt.

(I guess those of us who worked in restaurants had "don't touch your face!!!" beat into us that we don't even notice we lost the habit. Or I'm just nuts.)
posted by gjc at 6:33 PM on April 26, 2013

Germs can travel from anywhere on your body to anywhere else on or in your body. Bacterial translocation: it happens! (eg: from your stomach to your lungs! I know! Crazy!) You can count on whatever's on your face to making its way up your nose or into your mouth at some point.

Sometimes it's good to put stuff in your mouth. You know, encourage the body to respond to allergens, bacteria, and viruses. But yeah, it's pretty easy to get sick by putting stuff in your mouth.

It would be very difficult to avoid touching your face. We do it all the time. If you really wanna avoid getting sick, the best thing to do is what the folks above have suggested: wash your hands after you touch communal things, before you touch anything else.

(Incidentally, there's a ton of interesting research being done on biofilms and normal flora. Basically, there's a population of bacteria you've normally got, on your teeth, up your nose, on your skin and, uh, in your poop chute. And this normal flora is good at surviving and taking up space and pumping out stuff, basically preventing other, possibly harmful, bacteria from getting a foothold and causing havoc.)
posted by herrdoktor at 7:10 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not quite what you wanted to know, but I haven't gotten sick (cold, flu, whathaveyou) in 3 years, since I started taking vitamins for pregnancy, and then kept with it after I had my son.

I'd love to say this is only anecadata, but seriously, I have a toddler now (ie Germ Factory) and have not gotten so much as a sore throat, which believe me, is a miracle.

My son has only gotten ONE cold back when he was about six months old, before we started giving him regular child vitamins. I can't say the same for all of the other children we see regularly on the playground.

Hope that helps some.
posted by jbenben at 9:42 PM on April 26, 2013

I got the same advice (no touching the face above the neck!) during an H1N1 scare and have mostly stuck with it. One good result is less acne. I used to rest my chin on my hands, and since I've stopped, so have the chin zits.
posted by whitewall at 10:25 PM on April 26, 2013

I would like to mention that the majority of germs that you come in contact with do not make you sick unless your immune system is compromised. Also, in my experience most of the times I get sick is through shared air not hand-to-mouth contact :/

I agree with jbenben maybe this is a nutritional issue. I know that of at least two people that have improved their lifestyles (diet and exercise) and have reduced their frequency of getting sick. So maybe consuming a wide variety of vegetables, fish oils, and getting some extra exercise will help you get sick less often?
posted by brocklee at 2:01 AM on May 10, 2013

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