Are You Allergic to Your Phone? Study Suggests It’s Covered Allergens

A woman is looking at her phone on the sofa with a dogShare on Pinterest
A new study suggests that smartphones have environmental hazards such as allergens and should be cleaned regularly. Eldad Carin / Stocksy
  • A new study suggests that smartphones are hosts for allergens such as pet dander and fungus.
  • Researchers say people with allergies or asthma should clean their phones regularly to minimize their risk of a severe reaction.
  • Researchers have also noted some effective ways to clean your smartphone.

People touch their smartphones more than 2,600 times a day, according to a 2016 report. And if you’re prone to allergies or live with asthma, your smartphone could be making you sick.

That’s according to a new study presented this week at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s (ACAAI) annual scientific meeting in Louisville, KY.

Using simulated smartphone models, the study showed elevated levels of cat and dog allergens, as well b-D glucans (BDG) and endotoxin. BDG is found in fungal cell walls, and endotoxins are bacterial toxins found in the environment.

“Smartphones showed elevated and variable levels of BDG and endotoxin, and cat and dog allergens were found on pet owners’ smartphones,” Hana Ruran, a high school senior from Hopkinton, MA, research intern at Boston Children’s Hospital, and lead author on the study, in a press release.

The researchers concluded that people with allergies or asthma should clean their smartphones frequently to reduce their risk of allergy or asthma triggers.

Dr. Payel Gupta, a national volunteer medical spokesperson for the American Lung Association, told Healthline that allergens can be found everywhere — including hair, clothes and shoes — so it makes sense that they also live on our smartphones.

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Also, cat and dog allergens found in pets can remain on any surface.

“If you touch your phone and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, the allergens can enter your nasal or respiratory tract or eye mucosa,” Gupta said.

In addition, allergens in the eye or respiratory tract can cause the release of histamine and cause allergic symptoms.

“Our phones go with us everywhere, we put them on all kinds of surfaces, [and] they collect all kinds of debris,” Dr. William B. Miller, Jr., infectious disease expert, evolutionary biologist, and author of “Bioverse: How the Cellular World Holds the Secrets to Life’s Biggest Questions,” told Healthline.

While most allergens cannot be avoided, you can reduce your risk of allergy or asthma triggers by cleaning your smartphone.

To reduce the effectiveness of various cleaning agents for BDG and endotoxin, the study used the following chemicals:

  • Electrostatic wipes
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Clorox non-bleach
  • Chlorhexidine
  • cetylpyridinium
  • benzyl benzoate
  • tannic acid wipes

The researchers also designated a control group in which no cleaning solution was used.

According to a press release, researchers found that a combination of chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium was the most effective in reducing cat and dog allergens on smartphones.

But chemical compounds like these are not necessarily accessible. According to Gupta, simply removing your phone’s case — if you have one — and cleaning it with soap and water could probably do the trick.

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“Soap and water would be allergy-friendly and leave no residue that could then cause chemical irritation,” Gupta said.

As for cleaning the phone itself, it’s a good idea to consult the manufacturer’s manual for guidelines. For example, AppleCare recommends removing all cables from your iPhone and turning it off before cleaning with a “soft, slightly damp, lint-free cloth.”

You should also try not to get moisture into openings or crevices.

Products to avoid when cleaning your smartphone

If you have an iPhone, Apple Care does not recommend using the following cleaning products directly on your device:

  • Window cleaners
  • Household cleaning products
  • compressed air
  • Aerosol spray cans
  • solvents
  • ammonia
  • abrasives
  • Cleaner with hydrogen peroxide

There is no exact formula for how often you should clean your smartphone, but it may be a good idea to make it a regular habit.

“There’s no downside to cleaning a device you use regularly,” Miller said.

“Cleaning your phone to remove some allergens is a drop in the sea of ​​potential allergic triggers that surround you constantly.”

If you live with allergies or asthma, you may want to clean your smartphone more often than recommended by researchers.

According to Gupta, people with seasonal allergies are advised to clean more frequently to reduce their risk of triggers.

“As allergists, we recommend that people who have seasonal allergies take off their outdoor clothes and shoes when they come in from outside,” Gupta said. “Allergens can also stick to the hair, so washing your hair at night before you go to bed can be helpful.”

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If you’re allergic to dust mites, Gupta recommends cleaning your sheets with warm water once a week.

Animal allergens

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that 6 out of 10 people are exposed to cat or dog dander.

Gupta recommends keeping pets out of the bedroom if you’re allergic, which can reduce the number of allergens you’re exposed to while you sleep—especially if you keep your smartphone nearby.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends the following to reduce pet allergens in your home:

  • close the doors to bedrooms
  • cover vents with dense material
  • wash and change your pet’s furniture
  • clean toys often

A new study has found that smartphones are a reservoir for common allergens, including pets, which can increase the risk of a reaction if you have allergies or asthma.

Cleaning objects around the house – especially your smartphone – can help prevent allergy or asthma triggers, especially if done regularly.

A damp cloth is recommended over many common household cleaning products when cleaning your smartphone. You can try a diluted solution of water and rubbing alcohol, but you’ll want to refer to your phone’s manual for additional guidance.


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