In the pre-digital era, millions of Americans retreated to their bathrooms with a newspaper, magazine, or book.
The print media are on their last legs. And more people are relying on their smartphones to occupy their minds while they attend to bathroom business.
About 90% of us take our cellphones to the bathroom, according to one study.
That’s a bad idea.
As little as five minutes in the bathroom is enough to coat your cell phone with germs that can make you sick, say infectious disease experts.
Your close proximity to the toilet bowl is part of the problem. When you flush, it sends bacteria and fecal matter airborne. They can land on your phone.
The bigger issue is that you’re touching germ-laden surfaces in the bathroom. Things like the toilet seat, toilet handle, doorknob, and faucet.
And then you transfer the germs from your fingers to your phone when you use it in the bathroom before washing your hands.
Cellphones Carry More Germs than a Toilet Seat
Although a smartphone screen may look clean, it’s actually a good habitat for germs commonly found in bathrooms. They include:
- Noroviruses. They cause stomach flu. They can remain on a solid surface—like cell phones—for a week.
- E.coli. It causes intestinal illnesses and urinary tract infections.
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It can cause serious—even life-threatening—skin infections.
- Salmonella. It causes diarrhea and fever.
COVID-19 is another danger, although most cases are transmitted through the air, not from surfaces.
Studies show that cellphones and tablets often carry 10 times more bacteria and viruses than a toilet seat. That’s because most devices are rarely cleaned and toilet seats are usually disinfected regularly.
In one study, an iPad had 600 units of Staphylococcus aureus, which causes skin infections. That’s 30 times more than what was found on an office toilet seat.
Some viruses survive far longer on hard, dry surfaces such as cell phones than they do elsewhere. These include flu viruses, which can live for up to eight hours on a cell phone. They also include the dreaded MRSA, which can remain viable on a dry surface for up to nine days.
Don’t Let Your Phone Make You Sick
One commonsense solution for protecting yourself is to go back to the old way: Keep your phone out of the bathroom. Restrict bathroom reading to disposable media such as newspapers and magazines. Or read a book that stays in the bathroom.
And you should clean your cellphone once a week. Wiping it with a soft microfiber cloth will remove many germs. Device manufacturers like Apple recommend staying away from cleaners containing bleach. They can damage touch screens.
A better option is to wipe with a solution containing 60% water and 40% rubbing alcohol. But be sure the device is turned off. And make sure the microfiber cloth you use is damp, not soaking wet. You don’t want liquid to seep inside the device.
It’s also a good idea to avoid sharing your phone.
And one more thing…
Don’t forget the proven benefits of hand washing. It will help keep germs off your phone…and out of your body.
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