DISCLAIMER - I am not Anthony Fauci, MD or Deborah Birx, MD. I am not speaking for the CDC and I don’t have any randomized clinical trials to point to. What I do have is common sense. So here’s my thought: We should be washing our faces with soap and warm/hot water, not just our hands.
Here’s what we DO know:
- The Covid 19 virus (or SARS CoV 2) stays alive on surfaces for a very long time: hours to days, apparently.
- There are 2 primary ways people get infected: (1) from aerosolized droplets that are in the air after someone with Covid 19 sneezes, coughs or even speaks, apparently and (2) from touching an infected surface (a countertop, computer mouse, etc.) and then touching our face where the virus can then travel into our nose or mouth and infect us
- Per the CDC, handwashing with soap and warm/hot water for 20 seconds kills the virus.
Putting the above 3 facts together leads me to the conclusion that we should be washing our faces with soap and warm/hot water AFTER we wash our hands 100% of the time. Consider this scenario: You unknowingly touch a contaminated surface. A few minutes later, your cheek itches and you subconsciously touch your cheek to scratch the itch. 5 minutes later you wash your hands. Sure, you’ve eliminated the Covid 19 on your hands, but the Covid 19 that is now on your face is still alive and well, just waiting to get inside your nose or mouth and infect you.
Are there any potential drawbacks to washing your face every time you wash your hands? I can’t really think of any, except that if you washed your face with insufficient soap and water to actually kill the Covid 19, you could actually just be moving the Covid 19 around on your face and potentially spreading it closer to your mouth or nose. However, if you make sure to wash your hands thoroughly first, and then soap up your hands a second time to get a nice lather BEFORE washing your face, I think that you run little risk of moving the virus around without actually killing it first.
Would love to have the infectious disease experts weigh in on this, but until they do, this is what I am personally doing. STAY SAFE!!!
-Steve Punzak, MD
About the Author: Stephen Punzak, MD is a practicing Anesthesiologist as well as the CEO of One Medical Passport. He founded One Medical Passport because he has always had a vision of how healthcare could run more efficiently using technology. He frequently writes on medical topics, workflow efficient measures and ASC industry trends.