Let’s talk germs
Have you ever noticed that you can see the tell-tale sign of a greasy trail as you swipe the touch screen of your cell phone?
People aware of it often mention that their phone is filthy ... but what you can see may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the cleanliness of your phone. That greasy, oily residue may be home to 10 times the amount of disease-causing germs than you would find on a toilet seat.
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London sampled 390 cell phones and hands. After analyzing the samples, they found 92 percent of cell phones had bacterial on them, 82 percent of hands had bacteria and 16 percent of both had E. coli bacteria.
Touch screens transfer microorganisms to the fingers easier than other surfaces. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, “About 20 to 30 percent of viruses on a glass surface similar to a smart-phone screen will transfer to your fingertips,” said study author Tim Julian, Ph.D.
From your fingertips, it is a short trip to the mouth, eyes and nose, which are the key access points for viruses and harmful bacteria to enter the body.
Many of us wash our hands diligently before cooking or eating and after using the bathroom, yet we seem to forget that our cell phones are veritable breeding grounds of germs and also need to be washed frequently and / or sanitized with an appropriate sanitizer that will kill the germs without harming the touch-screen surface.
Lab tests of phones have found staphylococci, e-coli and MRSA bacteria, flu viruses, pink-eye and 27- to 42-thousand times the amount of fecal-related bacteria that is allowed in one 1/2 cup of drinking water.
The presence of germs takes on even more importance in a health care setting. Tests of mobile phones belonging to hospitalized patients and their visitors have been found to contain multidrug-resistant viruses or bacteria.
This is not a surprise since people take their cell phones everywhere and will pass them to a total stranger to take a group picture.
Seven ways to reduce your risk
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom. E. coli bacteria from fecal matter can survive on hands and surfaces for hours. Washing your hands will also help prevent mobile phone contamination of viral infections like the norovirus, rotavirus and the flu.
- Wipe your phone down with a disinfectant once or twice a day. ALWAYS check with your phone’s manufacturer for the best cleaning product and method so you do not damage your cell phone screen. Some household cleaner manufacturers also offer a line of cleaners specifically for electronic devices.
- Be careful where you place your phone. When your cell phone touches money in your purse, the table of a restaurant or the counter of at a department store, it picks up germs.
- Don’t share your phone with others.
- Don’t take your cell phone to the gym.
- Don’t use your phone in the bathroom.
- Use a bluetooth or other hands-free device to minimize keyboard-to-face-contact.