CDC, Please Recommend: Clean Your Hands AND Your Cell Phones!
Time to ramp up our awareness and teach “cell phone hygiene” to kids and adults alike
It happens every day, and it’s an epidemic — perhaps the newest, deadliest and sneakiest way to transmit disease.
We all know somewhere in the back of our minds what a serious weapon it is, but most of us aren’t letting those thoughts rise to the surface — if we did, it would mean some extra vigilance in a world which already requires so much of us. But that’s also why it has so much potential for widespread harm.
It’s your cell phone.
We all have one, and we’ve all been there: standing in line at a public bathroom listening to the characteristic pings and clicks of someone else in a stall “liking” a Facebook post, scrolling through their email, or mindlessly giggling over some familiar meme.
And most of us have been “the other guy” on the other side of that stall doing the same thing. Admitting it, however…? You first.
Nonetheless, it’s high time — especially in the days of killer flus, coronavirus, SARS and deadly e-coli — that we wake up to the heebie-jeebies living on our cell phones, which are sometimes even invited to bed with us.
According to Seattle Times journalist Bobby Caina Calvan, your phone is covered in germs: 25,127 bacteria per square inch, to be precise. This makes cell phones one of the dirtiest objects we come in contact with on a daily basis, far worse than doorknobs and even toilet seats!
Think about it: what good is handwashing if you take your phone into a stall, check your Instagram, answer a few texts, wipe (even just “one-handed”), flush using a covid-19 or flu-covered toilet lever (though flushing with your shoe is another option), and only then put the phone in your pocket before proceeding to wash your hands? The germy invaders are still lurking on your phone, safe inside that pocket or purse, waiting for those clean hands to come back and get it. As soon as you’re done (and I’m guessing within about a minute or two after leaving the bathroom), you go back to that Instagram feed, meme or text one last time, don’t you?
Perhaps even more alarming, doesn’t almost every waitress, cook, receptionist, executive, taxi driver, farmer, teacher and student in America do the same…?
In restaurants and businesses across the globe, this kind of thing is happening — constantly. Cell phones represent a new public health threat, a huge transmission vehicle for germs and disease, one that requires focused attention and a heavy budget of public service announcements, posters, signs and maybe the loudest of all, social media advertising. Why not remind us even as we are caught “en el acto”?
Public bathrooms aren’t the only problem. The same logic applies to supermarkets, hospitals, schools and beyond. When was the last time you visited a hospital or doctor’s office, noticed a bunch of people wearing gloves and masks, then took out your cell phone to touch base with your spouse? You put the phone back in your pocket, take a squirt of hand sanitizer and be on your merry way?
Guess what’s still on that phone? Anything you were just trying to clean off your hands!
At the very least, all of us would benefit if the CDC — along with schools, businesses, restaurants and public bathrooms — reminded us to wash our hands and our cell phones frequently.
The latter can be efficiently accomplished by a thorough swipe of the phone’s front and back with a damp cloth moistened in a mixture of 60% water and 40% isopropyl alcohol. A paper towel can be used if you’re in a pinch and your phone has a case but may scratch the phone’s surface.
UV-light pulsing gadgets that destroy microbes are also an option and may be your thing. These work particularly well if you’re at home and putting your phone to bed for the night. Amtimicrobial covers and microfiber cloths are also recommended, but the latter may be less effective than we presume.
For ease and portability, though, with a guaranteed clean, disinfectant wipes hit the bullseye. Small packs — readily available at the supermarket, Walmart, Costco and elsewhere — can be carried in your purse or pocket, right alongside that phone. If the pack of wipes is too bulky, just put a stack in a ziploc and throw that in your purse or pocket before you head to Denny’s or Chick Fil-A. Maybe even bring extras to share with friends.
And don’t just clean your phone once a day (though that’s certainly an upgrade for most of us)— do it as much as you should be washing your hands!
Options to avoid, disarm or mitigate the spread of germs are always important and a step in the “good hygiene” direction. When it comes to cell phones, though, we all need to ramp up our awareness and teach “cell phone hygiene” to kids and adults alike.
The best option of all may be to ditch the thing entirely or leave it at home or in your car, especially when visiting restaurants, hospitals or other high-traffic areas prone to germ-transmission, where looking people in the eye is actually a whole lot more fulfilling, anyway.