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Quick Dose: Is Your Cell Phone Making You Sick?

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Your cell phone is dirtier than you think. From home, to work, to the the coffee shop around the corner, your phone picks up germs everywhere it goes. In fact, cell phones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats.

Cell phones collect the dirt, oil and bacteria that all people have on their skin. The average American checks their phone about 47 times per day. And each time they do, they transfer tiny microorganisms from their fingers to their phone’s surface. When you hold a dirty phone to your face, bacteria enters your pores, causing minor skin breakouts, or even more serious conditions, including E. coli, MRSA, staph infections and influenza.

Unlike healthy individuals, people with weaker immune systems may find themselves getting sick from common bacteria found on their cell phones. In order to avoid contracting those germs, get in the habit of cleaning your device on a regular basis. Wipe it down at least once a day with diluted vinegar or alcohol, as some cleaners won’t get the job done. Additionally, try to avoid letting others touch your phone to minimize the spreading of germs. And definitely keep it out of the bathroom.

Of course it’s difficult to adhere strictly to all these rules. So when in doubt, just remember to wash your hands.

- Steven M. Lewis, MD, Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group, infectious diseases