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Why is it important not to touch your face when you have a cold sore?

It's important to avoid touching your face as much as possible when you have cold sores because you are more likely to spread cold sores to other people. Cold sores are caused by certain strains of the herpes simplex virus and can spread from close contact as well as sharing silverware, razors and towels.1

Touching the cold sore on your face can make it easy to then spread it to other people through contact, especially if your cold sore blister has burst. In some people, you can even spread cold sores to other areas of the body, including the fingertips, eyes and other areas of the skin. 1 This can cause further complications and issues down the line.

One simple thing you can do to help prevent either spreading cold sores to other people or to other areas of your body is to avoid touching your face as much as possible, especially when you have an active cold sore. Then, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and/or use a tissue when you need to touch your face.

8 Tips on How to Not Touch Your Face

Now that you've got the rationale behind why you should avoid touching your face, let's get into some tips to help in the process. Follow these tips to help remember not to touch your face.

1. Build Your Awareness

Start learning how to not touch your face by first paying more attention to when you touch your face. The first step to stopping a habit is to know how often you do it and why. Think about this when you're touching your face so you can make an effective strategy to stop. You can help build your awareness by writing down why you're touching your face each time you catch yourself doing it, ask a family member to tell you when you are, or wear scented lotion on your hands to help yourself notice your hands approaching your face.

2. Keep Your Hands Busy

If you catch yourself idly messing with your face or touching it often out of needing something to do with your hands, try to keep them busy with something else. You can try things like doodling with pen and paper, holding a stress ball, getting a fidget spinner, or fiddling with a rubber band or hair tie. Find something to keep your hands busy without being too disruptive to your life.

3. Keep Your Hair Out of Your Face

If you're always touching your face because your hair is getting in the way, make time to tie your hair back in a ponytail, braid or other hairstyle. If your bangs bother you, try barrettes, hair bands or other clips.

4. Make Sure Your Glasses Fit

Ill-fitting glasses can be annoying as well as make you touch your face a lot to adjust them. Make sure you get glasses that fit you well and don't slip down your nose to cut down on the adjusting. You can also take your current glasses to your eye doctor to get them adjusted.

5. Change the Way You Sit

If you catch yourself touching your face a lot when sitting at meetings or just watching TV, try changing the way you sit. Put your hands in your pants pockets or in your hoodie pocket to prevent that easy action of resting your chin in your hand. Try crossing your arms or setting your hands on your chair or desk. Switch it up and see what works for you.

6. Prevent Itchiness

Itchiness and irritation can be a big reason you're touching your face. If your cold sore itself is irritating you, try different creams and topical treatments that can help with irritation. With normal irritation, make sure to moisturize your skin and apply balm to your lips to prevent dry skin and irritation.

7. Imagine Your Hands are Dirty

If visualization helps you, imagine your hands are dirty or covered in paint, so that you can't touch your face or you'll get it everywhere. While this tip is a little more out there, it can still help you visualize a reason not to touch your face.

8. Use a Tissue

While you can do all you can to avoid touching your face, you won't be able to stop it altogether. So, when you need to touch your face, make sure to use a tissue and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Try out these tips to avoid touching your face and see if they stick. Remember that changing an everyday habit is a process and isn't going to happen overnight, but you can do it. Learn more about dealing with cold sores and managing your lip health in our resource center.

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SOURCES

1. Cold Sore: Symptoms and Causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cold-sore/symptoms-causes/syc-20371017#/ Accessed 2/5/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in the source PDF.