Attempting to Break the Weakest Link in the Chain of Infection

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)

Thank you!


Sounds interesting! How awkward is the device to wear, and can the device be used without instant feedback, let’s say I wanted to get an idea of how many times I touch my face without influencing my behavior too much?

I don’t think it’s awkward to wear, but I helped to created it and found the fact it worked to be exciting, so my opinion doesn’t count. I can say my testers are often frustrated with it at first. I have seen several curse when it catches them face touch. :slight_smile: But by the second day, they are already feeling much better to witness their own improvement.
Automatic face touching is a lifelong habit, and it’s difficult for people to be confronted repeatedly by a behavior they didn’t think they did so often. It’s like finding out your hands touch your face, without your permission. I think it’s inherently awkward.

You are not the first to ask about using the device without feedback, so you could be onto something there. However, I’m confident your behavior wouldn’t change until you had the instant feedback. My experience has shown even after people have proof using their own camera footage, it just didn’t help them curb the behavior.

Another problem I personally have with offering a zero feedback mode is that people would use the device this way, and get no benefit. It’s my mission to actually reduce infection rates, and I can’t see a way zero feedback could do that. It would feel unethical to let someone believe they were helping themselves, when I have so much evidence that they were in fact using the device in an ineffective way.
Of course, I may be missing something, and I would love to hear more of your thoughts on the matter. :heart:

Is this still the same design as in your Kickstarter campaign from last year? Looks reasonably unobtrusive to me, though I wonder about false positives from eating, blowing your nose, or putting on sunglasses… Might not be a big deal if the main purpose is to create awareness.

Not sure what your market for such a device would be. Public health researchers? Desperate teanagers with acne? :slight_smile: I’d wear the device for a day, out of curiosity, and “for science”, but it’s not something I’d have the motivation to use regularly.

Some small design changes have been made since the kickstarter. Did you see it when it was live? If so, how did you hear about it? I hired a fake (I didn’t know that at first) marketing company to promote it…

Your correct about false positives in those cases. Your sound perfect for testing. What I failed to mention is, this isn’t like a fitbit, where your expected to wear it for the rest of your life. Your not required to wear this long term to get all the benefits. Depending on the person, you can break unwanted habits in 20 hours usage for adults, and as little as 5 hours for children. I have seen both happen.

I’m not sure what my market is either! My logic is, people get 200 colds in their life (not counting flu), everyone should want to get significantly less. But as I mentioned earlier, my message fails to resonate with most people. I do have happy customers who broke the nail biting habit using the HandsDown. Also mothers who help their kids avoid eye infections, acne, sucking on thumbs, fingers, shirts…
No public health researchers yet… do you know someone?

Private message me with an address, and I will get one shipped to you shortly.

I appreciate your insights!


Measuring face touching could be interesting, to see what difference it makes for my health, if any.

Having a tool preventing my habit of face touching would not be interesting before I can see that it actually makes a difference, for me.

I can see the logic in the initial statement, that since infections are spread by hands, less face touching would mean less colds and infections. But does it?

I can see other possible outcomes of it. Perhaps I get more sensitive by getting less bacteria and viruses? Perhaps face touching isn’t the main mode of transmission, but rather eating with my hands (like nuts, bread etc that I don’t use a fork for)…

Therefore, I would definitely want the gadget to measure the actual effects first, before having it chastise me for touching my face.

Great points, I really value your input!

Within the understanding of modern science, certainly yes. I am eager to cite a dozen sources, please just ask for them.

I too have wondered if the device is so effective that people could become more sensitive. However, I’m not worried, as you say, face touching isn’t the only way we get exposure. It’s just around 80% of the time according to CDC estimates.

This device does not replace infection control best practices, such as the rule: Wash your hands before you eat food. Especially finger food.

Do you perhaps mean you want the effectiveness measured by a third party? Like a unbiased clinical trial? That is coming, but it will take 2 years. If you know a way to speed that up, let me know!

I do not understand that statement. Surely you don’t expect the device to measure it’s own effects. Like include the internal hardware to determine if the user has contracted a cold or flu? Please elaborate on that point.


I mean that I want to measure the effect on myself. I’m tracking my health in several ways; adding face touching as a variable to see a base line, and then altering my behavior to see if it makes any difference for me.

I do see problems with the n=1 kind of study, especially in this case, but that is the quantified self approach. Since I don’t have a cold more than perhaps twice a year, I would probably need a year of base line data first, then changing my face touching behavior and take another year to see the difference. But that would be the ideal for me.

Understood. Thank you for clarifying.

You guys have inspired me to seek yet another alternative to instant feedback for behaviour modification.
I’m asking the community a different request: “For science” would you be willing to participate in a brief study?
Anyone reading this may participate.

Step 1 of 3, read article:
Answer these 2 questions (all answers are correct answers):
When was your last bad cold or flu infection? (guess the year and month)
What is your estimate of the likelyhood you contracted said cold or flu infection from touching your own eyes, nose, or mouth? (0-100% please)

Step 2 of 3, open this breathing exercise in it’s own window:

The next time you become aware of a strong urge to either rub your eyes, nose, or mouth, instead refrain and participate in this breathing exercise until the urge disappears.
Answer these 2 questions:
Could you refrain?
If so, how long did it take for the urge to disappear?

Step 3 of 3, read this article:

Then answer these questions:
What pieces of advice from the last article (if any) do you plan to personally implement? (No such thing as wrong answers here)
After this brief participation, do you feel significantly better protected from cold or flu?

That’s it! Thank you Quantified Self person! You rock!