• The number one place you should consider keeping your phone away from is the loo. (AP)Source: AP
When it’s time to go, it’s time to let the phone go (if you want to stay healthy and infection-free)
Megan Blandford

13 Feb 2017 - 2:07 PM  UPDATED 13 Feb 2017 - 2:09 PM

You might love having your smartphone’s company everywhere you go, but it’s time to let it go – just a little.

The device might seem harmless enough but your smartphone is actually spreading germs between the environments where you use it.

“There are water and air particles that harbour in the little creases of the phone, explains GP Dr Anchita Karmakar. “And phone covers and cases are usually made out of rubber, which is a warm and comfortable harbouring ground for bacteria.”

“Then we give our kids the phone, and they’re getting that bacteria transmitted to them as well,” she adds. “Parents often wonder where their children got an illness or infection. It could be from a variety of places and could actually be from your phone.”

So, watching funny YouTube clips or reading the online news while you’re on the loo isn’t ideal.

Stop taking your phone into the toilet

The number one place you should consider keeping your phone away from, says Dr Karmakar, is the loo.

First, there’s the danger of dropping it (and lots of phones have been ruined by getting caught up in a flush or being smashed on the bathroom floor).

And then there’s the germ factor.

“Even if you’re not using your phone on the toilet, you’re still holding it while you’re going in and out of the bathroom, and that’s enough to put bacteria on the phone (when you haven’t yet washed your hands),” says Dr Karmakar.

If you are playing around with your phone while you’re sitting there, as 41 per cent of us do, you’re exposing yourself to even more germs. “When you’re flushing or defecating, bacteria will be in the air particles which could attach to your phone,” she says.

Taking phones into the toilet simply isn’t an acceptable idea in many other cultures, says Dr Karmakar. “There’s a lot of water involved in the toileting process in Asia,” she explains, “so you wouldn’t want to take a phone in the bathroom for that reason”.

“And in general, I think those in eastern cultures find westerners to have poorer hygiene when it comes to cleanliness of phones and the way they use them.”

So, watching funny YouTube clips or reading the online news while you’re on the loo isn’t ideal.

But wait, it gets worse.

How about phones at the dinner table?

Many of us are guilty of scrolling through our phones while eating a meal but, as it turns out, this is another way of spreading germs.

“It’s probably not a good idea to be putting food in your mouth while fiddling around with your phone,” says Dr Karmakar, “because infections are often spread through the mouth.”

And if you’re using your phone on the toilet and then taking it to accompany you during a meal, well, think about it.

Going to bed with the phone

There are a couple of reasons that phones and bedrooms don’t mix.

The first is the potential to be making yourself sick while you sleep, particularly if you’re in the habits described above. “You’ve then basically combined your eating habits, sleeping habits and toileting habits in one,” says Dr Karmakar.

(Okay, this is getting gross.)

But there’s another aspect to the hygiene of our devices. “Phone hygiene isn’t just about bacteria,” says Dr Karmakar, “it’s about the amount of usage as well”.

This needs to be a focus in Australia, as it is in other parts of the world. Dr Karmakar says: “I’ve spoken with Japanese pediatric psychiatrists and they’re really working hard on limiting the amount of usage, especially for children”.

“Try not to have access to phones a couple of hours before you sleep: they’re linked to sleeping issues in both children and adults.

“Anything excessive is not good, and the way we use phones is just too much.”

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