Earwax, faeces bacteria and street dirt… Research shows that our smartphone is much more filthy than a toilet seat and that the device can contain up to seventeen thousand bacterial genes. What risks are there with dirty smartphones?
Charlotte Michels, an infection prevention expert, works in healthcare. The hygiene rules in the field of smartphones make the difference between life and death. This is not always the case in ‘normal’ life. Yet hygiene habits when it comes to smartphones can make all the difference.
“If someone has the norovirus – and thus suffers from diarrhea – this virus spreads easily through the hands. And therefore also through telephones,” Michels says.
“If you pick up your phone without having disinfected it, you will infect your phone with all kinds of bacteria and / or viruses that you have on your hands at that moment. These can survive on the phone for some time. One bacterium survives for a short time, the other one. others can last for days or even weeks. “
‘Apply Hand Hygiene Where It Should Be’
In times of corona, it is increasingly instilled in us: hand hygiene. Disinfecting the hands is also crucial for keeping the smartphone clean. “Apply hand hygiene where it should”, Michels argues. “After going to the toilet, after cleaning up spoiled food or preparing food for yourself. If you practice hand hygiene after those moments, you can assume that your phone cannot just get contaminated or that you will spread all kinds of things. from your phone. “
Our hands are often the culprit when it comes to contaminating our phone with bacteria and viruses. “Phone ears with wax residue don’t look fresh, but are not necessarily dangerous. Your hands are everywhere, not your ears. Unless you have a fungal infection in your ears, but in general this is not very common. “
‘It starts with awareness’
From not washing your hands after a trip on public transport to lending your phone to others and then not disinfecting it: an unsanitary habit is quickly ingrained in our system.
“A habit is an unconscious act,” emphasizes behavioral psychologist Sophia Tepe. “It’s important to realize that when we talk about behavioral change. The power of these unconscious patterns is many times stronger than will power.” That said, how do you break this down?
It all starts with awareness, says Tepe. “If you know nothing about the risks of poor telephone hygiene, you have no reason to change your behavior. Awareness is therefore the starting point for your new habit. But because of the persistent patterns that have crept into you, intentions alone are not enough.”
Write down a concrete plan
A proven aid for converting your intention into ‘doing it for real’ is the use of the so-called implementation intentions. Or simply: write down a concrete ‘if-then plan’, the behavioral psychologist suggests. “For example: when I go to sleep tonight, I clean my phone with a cleaning cloth. Or: if I went to the bathroom today in the office, I clean my hands thoroughly with soap.” The ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ are essential here and make your plan concrete. “Saying that you want to be more hygienic with your smartphone is too general,” adds Tepe. “In addition, choose a positive wording.”
Michels is hopeful. For example, she sees the number of stomach flu cases decreasing, probably as a positive result of the corona measures. “People deal better with hand hygiene and you are starting to notice that. Not meeting each other also helps in the context of infection prevention.”