Watch Out! Your Cell Phone May Be Buggy!
Chris Zdeb, Edmonton Journal
What's germier: the bottom of a shoe, a cellphone, a toilet seat or a door
A cellphone. It's a breeding ground for bacteria because it operates at a high
temperature which provides a warm place for bacteria to live and it's held
close to the mouth with warm, sweaty hands everyday.
According to research, the germiest phones can spread the staph bacteria
which can cause everything from skin infections like acne to pneumonia and
Don't panic, says Dr. James Talbot, associate medical officer of health with
Edmonton's Capital Health and a
former medical microbiologist. Bacteria are part of the natural environment and
are everywhere, short of material that's just been sterilized in a hospital, he
explains. The vast majority of bacteria don't care about people and have no
effect on us. And in the case of a cellphone, because you're probably the only
one using it, most of the millions of germs covering it are yours.
So it's no surprise that no one that we recently stopped and asked in
downtown Edmonton says
"cellphone" when asked which item is the germiest. We expected most
would answer the proverbial toilet seat, but almost all chose a door handle
because of the number of people who handle it in a day.
Given the situation, any item can be more contaminated than another, Talbot
For example, a toilet seat has few bacteria because it's washed regularly
and people put relatively clean things on it. But if the seat has just been
used by someone with diarrhea due to a bacteria or virus, it would be riskier
healthwise than a door handle with a bunch of skin contaminant bacteria on it.
So would using the cellphone of someone who is obviously showing signs of a cold,
The best way to reduce your risk of catching someone else's germs is not to
share things and to wash your hands with soap and warm water throughout the day
and especially before eating, after using the toilet and after a lot of such
physical contact as shaking hands, he advises. But every healthy life needs a
little bacteria in it, Talbot adds.
"Because of evolution, most humans are actually designed to live in an
imperfect world," Talbot explains. "There are studies on animals that
show if they're raised completely in absence of any kind of bacteria or virus
or fungi, their immune systems are very poor because they're never challenged
and the animals themselves are fairly sickly," Talbot says.
A certain amount of contact with bacteria keeps our immune systems sharp.
Good bacteria help our bodies break down material, produce vitamins, and make
it harder for us to get an infection in the intestines, Talbot says.
It's best to strike a balance because promoting germaphobia is unhealthy as
well, he adds.
- A more legitimate worry in
summer, Talbot says, is gastrointestinal disease -- contaminated hamburger
meat left out at room temperature; salmonella in unrefrigerated caesar
salad dressing; disease-causing organisms in river and pond water that
warms up to a temperature where they can multiply.
Squirting a bit of soap on your hands, rubbing them together a couple of
times and rinsing them off is not enough washing to protect you from the spread
of bacteria, adds Talbot.
Squirt on the soap, lather hands with warm water and spend at least 15
seconds and preferably 30 seconds washing them. Talbot says surgeons treat
every finger as if it has four surfaces, washing between fingers and up the
Surgeons are also taught by operating room nurses, who are the experts, to
keep their hands below chest level to pretend there is an invisible barrier.
Talbot explains it reduces the chances of them subconsciously rubbing their
nose or eyes, which along with the mouth, are entry points for bacteria to get
in and possibly cause a disease.
© The Calgary Herald 2007