6 Body Parts You Should Never Touch

Woman looking at armpit without touching it

It’s the time of year when viruses are making their rounds—and this winter is proving to be even worse than years past. It can seem like everyone you know is coming down with something. Want to avoid joining them and being down for the count? In addition to covering the basics (washing your hands frequently, getting the flu vaccine and COVID booster, and avoiding hanging out with sick people), there are several body parts an immunologist and a family medicine doctor say to avoid touching because doing so ups the risk of getting sick.

Related: Here's Everything Doctors Do To Avoid Getting Sick During Cold and Flu Season

6 Parts of the Body You Should Never Touch

1. Eyes

“Almost everyone rubs their eyes when they’re tired, especially after staring at computer screens for an extended period,” says Dr. Douglas Lake, PhD, an associate professor in immunology and microbiology at Arizona State University.

Unfortunately, he says this can increase the risk of getting a viral or bacterial infection, explaining, “If you’ve touched something that has viruses or bacteria on it—nearly everything!—you could end up infecting tissues around your eyes including your eyelids. A common eye infection is called ‘pink eye,’ which can be caused by many different bacteria and viruses."

Dr. Lake says that the eyes do have some defenses. Lacrimal fluid in the form of tears helps clean and protect the eyes’ surface. But he explains that if viruses and bacteria get through mucus and tears, they can start to multiply around eye tissues which produces inflammation and excess mucus secretion, which results in pink eye.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Pink Eye—Including How Contagious It Is

2. Nose

Besides the eyes, Dr. Brittany Kunza, MD, a family medicine physician with PlushCare, a virtual primary care and mental health platform, says that touching your nose is something else to avoid if you want to stay healthy. She explains that the nose has mucus membranes, which are tissues that line body cavities, protecting the area and keeping it moist. While mucus membranes are beneficial, Dr. Kunza says that they are also places that are more susceptible to the transmission of viruses and bacteria.

Dr. Lake agrees, saying the nose is a common entry site for respiratory viruses (like COVID and RSV) as well as bacteria that can cause respiratory diseases.

3. Lips and mouth

The last major part of the face both doctors say to avoid touching is the lips and mouth. Dr. Kudzu says this is another part of the body with mucus membranes.

“Touching [your eyes, nose or mouth] which contain bodily fluids, and then touching surfaces and shaking hands can aid in spreading viruses and bacteria,” Dr. Kudza explains.

Related: The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do if You Want To Avoid Getting Sick, According to Immunologists 

4. Hands

Yes, we know, it's going to be hard to avoid touching your hands—since they're what you touch things with—but both doctors point out that the hands are the part of the body that’s most likely to come into contact with bacteria and viruses. Think about it: If an infectious person covers their mouth to cough or sneeze and then touches something, the next person to touch that surface will pick up the germs. Or, they could come into contact with them by shaking the person’s hand. 

“When the skin is intact, it is not likely to contract an infection through the hands, but touching many surfaces or people and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth, can increase exposure to bacteria and viruses.” Dr. Kudsi says. “Washing hands regularly with soap and water can help to reduce transmission of germs and infections.”

5. Belly button

According to a scientific study published in PLoS One, the belly button is a particularly germy part of the body. “The way skin folds in the belly button, especially if a belly button is an ‘innie’ as opposed to an ‘outie,’ makes it easier for microbes [bacteria, fungi and viruses] to accumulate in the area,” Dr. Lake explains.

However, both doctors say that as long as you’re showering regularly with soap, you shouldn’t worry about catching illnesses by touching your belly button since it’s typically covered and not coming into contact with surfaces or people very much.

6. Armpit

“Any area of the body that can be warm and moist can be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus,” Dr. Kunza says. The armpits can be one such area. Fortunately, this does not tend to be an issue in the winter since most people’s pits are covered up and not touched frequently.

In general, Dr. Kunza says the best way to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands frequently and to avoid being around people who are sick, if possible. If you are going to be around people who are sick—or in a crowded space where there may be infectious people—she says wearing a mask can be helpful.

“While there are arguments for and against the use of face masks, [there was] a significant reduction of cold and flu viruses during COVID as individuals were mindful to keep their distance, wearing a mask and staying home when they were not feeling well,” she says. “It is a good practice to continue even after COVID. If you are feeling unwell, it is a good idea to disclose that to others and avoid crowded gatherings to reduce the chance of transmitting the infection to others.”

By putting all these tips into practice, you’ll help keep yourself healthy—and everyone around you healthy too.

Next up, here's everything you should do if you feel a cold coming on to stop it in its tracks.