When I was growing up, there was no such thing as cell phones or even the Internet, and that was not too long ago. We popped dimes in the payphone and got caught up on current events by reading the newspaper or watching the local news. Today, most people wear their mobile device like a piece of clothing – it is always connected to us in some way or another. Tucked inside a handbag, stuck in our back pocket, strapped to our arm, or even pushed down inside a bra. Chances are, you are never very far from your smartphone. However, advantageous technology is, there are some downsides to consider. Let’s take a closer look at how your smartphone can interfere with your health.
Your cell phone is a germ hotbed
Since your cellphone most likely goes everywhere with you, it is, like you, exposed to millions of germs daily. What do you do with your cellphone when you use a public toilet – perhaps put it down on the back of the toilet, on the floor, or on the toilet paper holder? How often do you clean your cell phone? One study found that 1 in 6 phones had E coli. Bacteria on it, most likely because people did not wash their hands well. To protect yourself and others, wipe your phone down daily using an antibacterial wipe.
Your smartphone could give you text neck syndrome
Yes, believe it or not, it is a real thing. Spending too much time looking downwards at your phone could result in a condition known as text neck syndrome. This syndrome causes tightness and spasms along with nerve pain that can radiate down your back to your shoulder and arm. To avoid this, try to hold your phone up higher, and out in front of you so that you are not looking down and putting pressure on your neck and back. Participating in exercises such as yoga and Pilates will also help you stay strong and avoid injury.
Texting and driving accidents
Driving while texting is hazardous and can result in serious injury to yourself or others. Sending a text takes on average 5 seconds. However, if you are driving 55 mph, a car can travel the length of a football field in five seconds. This is more than enough to cause a serious wreck. According to research, you can be as much as 23 times more likely to crash when texting and driving. This is why texting and driving is illegal in 48 states and the District of Columbia. According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017, there were 3,166 people killed in vehicle crashes involving drivers who were distracted by activities such as eating, adjusting the radio, talking to passengers, and texting. The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use and driving causes 1.6 million crashes each year, and one out of every four accidents in America is caused by texting and driving.
Talking and driving accidents
Although you may think that it is less dangerous to talk on your phone and drive than to text and drive, the statistics are staggering. You are four times more likely to crash when you are talking than when the road has your 100% attention. Talking and driving causes more than one million accidents yearly, and 20% of all car wrecks, including those that injure or kill people. If you must talk on the phone, pull over and make a safe call.
Night surfing and blue light damage
Do you spend time on your phone while lying in bed after the sun has gone down? How often do you wake up and can’t sleep only to start surfing the web on your phone or checking emails? Too much light after dark can cause some severe health problems such as insomnia, which can contribute to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The blue light that your phone gives off is particularly bad for your health. Best to keep your phone away from your bed. Try charging it in another room so that you reduce the temptation to reach for it at night.
Walking, talking and texting accidents
A simple stroll down a busy street reveals that most people walk and talk on their phones. This poses an inherent danger where there are lots of people and motor vehicles in the mix. Even just walking down the sidewalk and trying to send a text can be dangerous. Tripping hazards are everywhere, and you can also step out in front of a car without even knowing it.
Trigger thumb and arthritis
Like text neck syndrome, trigger thumb is a relatively new condition brought about by the use of computers and smartphones. If you have ever experienced a trigger thumb, you know that this condition can be painful. The thumb becomes stuck in a bent position, and you have to push it open forcefully. You may have pain and hear cracking when this happens. Overuse of your thumb can result in the sheath surrounding the thumb to become thick so that the tendon does not slide freely. Texting or even just holding a cellphone can trigger such a condition. In addition, you may also develop arthritis in your thumb from overuse. The best remedy for both trigger thumb and thumb arthritis is to cut down on cellphone use and rest your thumb.
Cell phones produce a short wavelength of blue light that can tire eyes and cause pain. Overuse of smartphones can even lead to damage to the clear lens on the front of the eye known as the cornea. If your eyes become tired, it is time to take a break from your phone or computer. Resting your eyes and doing eye exercises can also help to minimize damage from overuse.
Radio frequency concerns
Cell phones emit radio-frequency (RF) energy – a type of radiation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies RF energy as “possibly carcinogenic.” Although the jury is still out on the strength of the association, if any, between increased risk of cancer and RF energy, it may still be wise to pay it safe. California’s department of public health has suggested that people play it safe and do the following tips to reduce exposure to cell phone radiation:
- Keep your phone away from your body
- Reduce use when the signal is weak
- Reduce the use of phones to stream or upload or download large files
- Keep your cell phone away from your bed
- Remove headset when not on a call
- Avoid the use of products that claim to block RF energy – some may actually increase exposure.
Talking and texting during a workout
Do you use your phone while working out? In two studies, it was found that talking or texting on a cell phone during a workout can lower the intensity of the exercise. In addition, researchers note that using a cellphone while exercising negatively impacts balance and can cause injuries to occur. It was found that texting reduces stability by 45 percent and talking by 19 percent. Study leaders had this to say,
“If you’re talking or texting on your cell phone while you’re putting in your daily steps, your attention is divided by the two tasks and that can disrupt your postural stability, and therefore, possibly predispose individuals to other greater inherent risks such as falls and musculoskeletal injuries.”
No doubt, we could all use a little break from our smartphone from time to time. Just becoming more aware of overuse will help you to develop good habits that may protect your health and the health of those around you.
Remember, you can always go back to the old fashioned way of communicating and write more letters!
-The Alternative Daily