Engineers in America create vibrating band to stop you touching your face

A bracelet that vibrates each time you touch your face could help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Designed by engineers in Seattle in the U.S., the £40 wristband buzzes gently when you go to scratch your nose, rub your eyes or wipe your lips.

It is hoped this will not only stop you in your tracks but, over time, will train you to touch your face less.

As the coronavirus is able to get into the body through the mucous membranes in the eyes, mouth and nose, public health advice stresses the importance of not touching our faces. 

Engineers in Seattle, U.S., have designed a £40 wristband called the Immutouch that buzzes gently when you go to scratch your nose, rub your eyes or wipe your lips 

The World Health Organisation says: ‘Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and make you sick.’

Following the advice, however, is not always easy, with studies showing that we touch our faces roughly every two minutes or so.

The Behavioural Insights Team, a company part-owned by the Cabinet Office, has said that because most face-touching is done automatically, without us realising, simply telling people not to do it will not work.

Instead, in advice issued last month, it suggests removing the temptation by keeping your hands in pockets or folding your arms, and swapping contact lenses for glasses to create a barrier between the hands and eyes.

It also suggests asking a friend or colleague to shout the word ‘face’ each time they see you reach towards yours. Some of these suggestions may be easier said than done, however, as many require a high level of constant concentration. But the wristband (available online at now offers an alternative.

Roughly the size of a watch, the new Immutouch band contains a sensor that monitors the position of the hand ten times per second.

The creators of the band hope that the device will stop users from touching their face. (Stock image)

The creators of the band hope that the device will stop users from touching their face. (Stock image)

On first getting it, the wearer uses the accompanying app to calibrate it — effectively teaching it how their arm moves when they touch different areas of their face. The band then buzzes each time it detects those movements.

The aim is to make the user aware of how often they are touching their face and train them out of the habit, with the app producing charts showing the frequency of the touching, too.

Two small studies of similar technology by the University of Michigan in the U.S. have shown the value of such gadgets in preventing another bad habit: trichotillomania, or compulsive hair-pulling. Wearing vibrating bracelets on each hand cut the number of hair pulls and attempted pulls by 90 per cent in one of the studies, and contributed to ‘significant improvements in symptoms’ in the other.

The manufacturer of the Immutouch is now conducting a study at the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain.

Ten volunteers will be monitored as they wear the bracelet to determine just how much it stops them from touching their faces.

Top tip

Wear gloves if exercising outside to avoid picking up the virus from hard surfaces, but remember not to touch your face while wearing them — and wash them at 60c at home, says microbiologist Ed Wright

Dr Simon Clarke, a virologist at the University of Reading, said the new device could be useful.

‘I am a terrible one for touching my face,’ he says. ‘Hand-washing is the most important thing, but it is not always feasible when you are out.

‘So something that helps you break the habit of touching your face could help to protect you from the coronavirus.’

Sir Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester, said the device uses conditioning — a well-established technique to break bad habits — to teach us not to touch our faces.

Just as the message that it is socially unacceptable to stand any closer than two metres to others is conditioning us to change our behaviour when out and about, the vibrating alert is conditioning us to change our behaviour regarding touching our face, he says.

‘You may still touch your face a few times. But the likelihood is that you will catch on that you shouldn’t do it,’ he adds.

Social media myths: We debunk the Covid-19 hoaxes circulating online 

This week: Eating alkaline foods to beat the illness

One post suggests that to beat coronavirus, we need to eat more alkaline foods that are above the pH level of the virus.

It lists foods such as avocado (pH 15.6), garlic (pH 13.2) and dandelion (pH 22.7) as potentially being useful in the fight against the virus.

Not only is this not true, it’s not even possible.

‘Viruses don’t even have a pH because they are not technically living things,’ explains Dr Jenna Macciochi, an immunologist at the University of Sussex.

‘They are just bits of genetic material wrapped in protein coats that invade our cells and use these in order to replicate themselves.

‘Food can’t change your internal pH level, and even if it could, it wouldn’t help fight Covid-19 because, as mentioned, the coronavirus doesn’t have a pH value.’