My name is Boone and I recently found Quantified Self. I’m very excited to talk to everyone! For the past couple years, I have been completely focused on common respiratory infections. Here is what I have so far:
Preventing a respiratory infection is much better than treating one. However, little has been done in prevention for the last 35 years. I think part of the problem is people don’t understand how most respiratory infections are spread because it’s counter intuitive: It’s by touch, not usually air.
Most people think airborne transmission is the primary way we all get respiratory infections, but the CDC estimates 80% of all infections are spread by hands, for good reason, as many studies have now shown the common cold and flu are difficult to pass in airborne experiments, but spreading disease by touch works in nearly 100% of test volunteers.
The CDC recommends frequent, and thorough hand washing. This recommendation fails to make much impact, because in practice, even the best washed hands become re-contaminated early and often after hand washing. This is easy to visualize after one understands that common cold and flu viruses can, and often do, live on most surfaces for 24 hours or more. People have been measured to touch up to 30 surfaces each minute in the workplace.
Attempting to supplement the limits of handwashing, the CDC recommends we avoid touching our eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Now they attempt to break the chain of infection at a different link: Face touching. Acknowledging that our hands, in the real world, will almost always be “unwashed”. Most respiratory viruses die on our hands in 20 minutes or less, and can’t pass through the skin on our hands. Cool! All we need to do is inform people to stop face touching right? I experimented doing just that, in several different settings. It didn’t work at all.
In my experience, informing people had no beneficial effect on actual face touching behavior. On average, people touch 16 times per hour, and informing them doesn’t reduce the number, in fact it usually increases face touches for a short period of time. The vast majority of eye, nose, and mouth touches are completely automatic and subconscious. People don’t choose to touch their face 16 time per hour, they just do, and often don’t even believe that they do. A camera can be used to prove to them how much they do it, but even after seeing the proof, no reduction of face touches happens. It seems, the feedback video provides is too late.
Changing a lifelong, subconscious behavior is very difficult, but not impossible. The 2 things we require to change, but don’t normally have: Objective measurement and instant feedback. I love that the QS community is all about objective measurement and feedback.
I built a small wearable device to provide those 2 missing things. It has worked for me, and a few other early testers. I no longer automatically face touch, a new ability I find highly valuable. I now have much more confidence, especially around sick people and public places.
In my mind, I have a working solution for a widespread problem. But it just isn’t that easy. Often people seem opposed to this, I’m hoping readers here can help me better understand the opposition. If your like most people, you don’t believe or don’t agree with something written above. If so, call it out. I’m happy to cite sources.
I appreciate you taking the time to read all this. I would really appreciate your input.
Would you be interesting in trying a prototype device for yourself or someone who you think really wants this?
If yes, please explain why, and I will do my best to get you one. (I have a very small quantity to give out)
More importantly if no, please comment here, explaining why not. (I treasure honesty)