Does wearing your face mask during the coronavirus pandemic make you want to touch your face? You’re not alone

  • As we try to flatten the curve of Covid-19, masks are one of the easiest and most effective ways of stopping the spread
  • You don’t realise how much you touch your face until you’re told not to
Tribune News Service |

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Don't touch your face, don't touch your OH DARN IT.

While the pandemic is flattening in some areas and surging in others, the fundamental caution remains in place: do not touch your face. The bad news is that the world is divided into two sorts of people – those who constantly touch their faces and those who do not. I am a face toucher.

My face and hands were made for each other. My chin nestles into my palm and my hand stretches out like a soft, comfy recliner custom-built for the side of my face.

Other times I touch the sides of my face rubbing my temples attempting to awaken brain cells. It hasn’t worked so far, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped trying.

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Sometimes I touch my face brushing away stray hairs, pushing my glasses up or pulling at a glob of mascara on my eyelashes.

Then there is the itching. My eyebrows itch, my eyes itch, my ears itch, my nose itches, and sometimes I imagine things crawling on the back of my neck.

One morning this week, I tried removing a semicolon from a sentence three times before I realised it was a tiny ant parked on my computer screen. Later that day, I felt like the ant, although no longer with us, was crawling across my feet and circling my ankles making them itch, too.

Why do I have bad breath when I wear a face mask?

I am a face-toucher itching from head to toe.

Of course, you know what happens to people who touch their faces when they put on face masks. They contort their eyes and wrinkle their nose attempting to scratch an itch and even rub the sides of their face on their shoulders.

Most itching is caused by cold air, dry air, heat, outside air, inside air, allergens, pollens, dust mites and dry skin. Two other things cause skin to itch as well – hand sanitisers and excessive hand washing, both of which happen to be extremely popular global pastimes these days. I have often wondered if face touching and itching are contagious (spread from one person to another) and was pleased to learn that scientists are researching what they call “contagious itch”, an itch that is visually transmitted, much like yawning.

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My skin has been itching like mad this week. Now since I know that itching can be visually transmitted, I can blame it on others.

A good friend developed a terrible dermatitis (a group of diseases that result in inflammation of the skin, characterised by itchiness, red skin and rashes) of an unknown origin on her torso, arms and legs.

Every time I hear about it, my arms and legs itch, too.

Then one of our sons-in-law developed an allergy to sunscreen.

He has a terrible rash on his neck and arms that keeps recurring, swelling and itching and making him miserable. I call to see if he’s improving, get a report, hang up and immediately begin scratching my arms and neck.

Then I wash my hands for the 345th time of the day and dry my skin even more.

You’re feeling it, too, aren’t you? Back of the neck. Left side. A little lower. There you go.

This piece was written by Lori Borgman, who is a columnist, author and speaker. Her new book, What Happens at Grandma’s Stays at Grandma’s is now available.