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How your phone is harming your health

man holding phone up to ear

While mobile phones have improved our lives in many ways, they can also affect your health in surprising ways. Here’s what to watch out for when using your phone.

Most of us use our phones for hours each day. The pocket-sized computers have undoubtedly made many tasks in our lives easier, but they can also cause or contribute to a number of different health issues, especially when being used for so long.

So what should you be aware of when using your phone?

Germs

As you’re touching your phone many times each day, it can very quickly become a reservoir of germs and bacteria and can even be vectors for viruses such as COVID.

Associate Professor Lotti Tajouri, from Bond University, says mobiles are “five-star hotels with premium heated spas, free buffet for microbes to thrive on”.

“[Mobile phones] have temperature control, we keep them in our pockets, we are addicted to them. We talk into them and deposit droplets that can be full of viruses and bacteria,” she says.

“We eat with them, so we give nutrients to micro-organisms. And nobody – absolutely nobody – washes or decontaminates their phone.”

So make sure you give your phone a wipe down at least once a week, if not more often.

Pulled muscles

Pulled or strained muscles from long periods of mobile phone use are common. Whether it’s the way we’re holding the phone in our hands or our posture while we use it, our phones are causing more and more pulled muscles.

Too much time looking down at your phone can strain your neck muscles and cause tightness or spasms. Holding the phone awkwardly between your ear and shoulder in order to free your hands will also put immense strain on your neck.

It’s also possible to damage the tendons in your wrists and thumbs from constantly texting or holding the phone tightly.

The answer in all these cases is to take regular breaks from using your phone. Make sure to stretch your fingers and thumbs and try to change your seating position regularly.

Situational awareness

Have you ever been texting while walking down the street and run into something? It’s happened to many of us but being distracted by our phones can cause serious injury or even death if cars are involved.

“People walk erratically when they’re distracted by mobile phones. They don’t walk straight,” says Associate Professor Daryl Wall, trauma service director at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. “You lose focus.”

And if they’ve got their earbuds in listening to music, it means they don’t hear the approach of a vehicle, says Prof. Wall. “We rely on our hearing to pick up certain cues.”

Eye problems

Prolonged mobile phone use can also cause a number of eye problems. The shorter wavelength of the blue light that smartphones give off can tire your eyes very quickly and cause pain.

Excessive blue light exposure can also have a detrimental effect on your sleeping patterns, especially if you’re in the habit of using your phone at night. Try to take regular breaks from your phone of at least 10 minutes.

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