Friday, December 02, 2011

Get Ready Mailbag: Can I get sick from germs on my cellphone?

Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to

Q: I know that dirty keyboards and doorknobs can pass along germs, but what about things like cellphones and iPods? Should I clean them, too? How often?

A: Dirty keyboards and doorknobs are just two of the sneaky culprits that can pass germs on to others. When a sick person coughs or sneezes and then touches objects, they can transmit their germs when others touch those same surfaces. Viruses such as flu germs can live on a surface for two to eight hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bacteria can present problems, too. While many are beneficial — think human digestion and soil decomposition — some can cause disease. They live most everywhere, including on your skin and in your body. In fact, more than 300 types of bacteria typically exist in a human mouth — a healthy one!

We are constantly coming into contact with germs, and usually they do not make us sick. But sometimes, if we’ve not been vaccinated against or exposed to a virus, or are not used to a certain type of bacteria — or if its population has grown too large — our immune systems are unable to fight off infection, and we end up feeling lousy.

Now think about all the places your cellphone, portable MP3 player or other mobile device goes: from the bottom of your gym bag and the cup holder in the car to a park bench and a table in a fast food restaurant. Ever text or take a call in the bathroom? That’s a lot of icky places. Mixed with the sweat and oil from your skin, and maybe a little spit, that thing is going to be dirty! And on top of that, things we carry on our person, like cellphones and iPods, tend to stay warm from our body heat. Bacteria love warmth and moisture. Given those conditions, they could grow and multiply more readily.

So to answer your question, yes! Cellphones and portable MP3 players can get germy. Keep yours clean and safe by wiping it down with rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer or an antibacterial wipe every few days. And think twice about where you use it, where you place it and who you share it with.

No comments: