Want to avoid flu Stop touching your face!
Many opportunities to in between hand-washing sessions to re-contaminate our hands, warn expertsKeeping your hands away from your nose and mouth could give you extra protection against viruses
14:54 GMT, 30 November 2012
With winter upon us offices across Britain are full of coughing and spluttering workers. But those who are determined to avoid picking up a nasty virus should take note – washing your hands regularly is not enough to keep yourself germ free.
Researchers have found that we 'inoculate' ourselves with bacteria and viruses by touching our mouths and noses with our hands after brushing contaminated surfaces.
Hands off! Touching your mouth and nose can spread germs that make you ill
However, the team from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, said few people realised that frequent face touching could make them ill.
'There are many opportunities in between hand-washing episodes for people to re-contaminate their hands,' study leader Dr Wladimir Alonso, told MyHealthNewsDaily.
'If a deadly respiratory virus is around, this is something to really take into account.'
Dr Alonso and colleagues randomly picked 249 people to observe in public places on the Washington D.C subway and in Florianopolis, Brazil.
Infection: A microscopic view of the Influenza A virus
They found that people touched common objects an average of 3.3 times per hour and their faces 3.6 times per hour.
We are therefore likely to get germs on our hands far more quickly than they are washed off.
Dr Alonso said that during flu outbreaks, people should be reminded to try and avoid touching their faces as well as washing their hands regularly.
But he added that while it was good to boost awareness, there was no need to be in a constant state of alert because the immune system offers good protection against disease.
The advice is a timely reminder as cases of both flu and the norovirus (vomiting bug) peak over the winter months.
The study was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.