Wiping phone
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Your cellphone probably goes with you everywhere. Ever check it while you were -- errr -- in the bathroom? And when’s the last time you cleaned it? Ever? It makes sense that there might be bacteria, viruses, or other germs on it. One study found 1 in 6 phones has E. coli bacteria on it, probably because people didn't wash their hands well. On the bright side, it’s a hard surface, which usually makes it harder for germs to survive. Still, it’s probably a good idea to wipe it down now then.

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teens texting
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Text Neck Syndrome

Too much time looking down at your phone can strain your neck muscles and cause tightness or spasms. You might even get nerve pain that goes to your back, or to your shoulder and down your arm. Take breaks at least every 20 minutes to stretch and arch your back. Try not to hunch forward. It helps to hold your phone higher up when you text, too. Posture exercises from yoga or Pilates will help you stay strong and avoid neck pain.

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Mom multitasking
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Awkward Phone Calls

Ever pinch the phone between your shoulder and ear while you do something else? It’s not a natural position. Do it for too long and you’ll probably notice that your neck hurts. If you can’t avoid it, take breaks and move your neck in other directions to keep it loose. If the damage is done, simple rest, a heating pad, and over-the-counter drugs for pain and stiffness should help. Talk to your doctor if it lasts more than a few days.

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Texting and driving
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Text and Drive

Just don’t do it. Sending a text takes 5 seconds of your attention. That seems so quick. But it’s not harmless. At 55 mph, your car goes about length of a football field -- more than enough space to cause a serious car wreck. Scientists figure this means you may be as much as 23 times more likely to crash. And the risk is the same whether you type or “voice text.”

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Talking and driving
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Talk and Drive

Maybe you think it’s pretty safe to talk on the phone when you drive. It’s not. You’re 4 times more likely to crash when you do it. It is a cause in more than a million crashes a year, or 20% of all car wrecks, including those that injure and kill people. If you really need to take or make a call, pull over. 

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Surfing web
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Surfing at Night

Not waves -- the Internet. Too much of any light after the sun goes down can mess up your sleep, which is linked to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other health problems. And the “blue light” your smartphone gives off is especially bad. Keep your bedroom dark for better rest. You can also help your nighttime sleep if you get lots of natural light during the day.

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Woman on phone
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Walkin’ or Talkin’ -- Not Both

You’re walking down the sidewalk and need to send a quick text. How long does it take? A few seconds? Enough time to trip and fall into a parking meter or car traffic. Just stop for a moment. Those seconds aren’t worth an accident. And it’s not just outside: The most common injuries happen while talking on the phone at home -- usually muscle and tendon strains, broken bones, and head injuries.

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cancer cells
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Cancer Risk?

Studies don’t show any solid link to cancer or even tumors in people. It’s something scientists continue to study. If you’re worried about the radiation from cellphones, you can limit your cellphone use, or use it in speaker mode or with a headset or earpiece.

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Hands texting
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Trigger Thumb

This is when your thumb gets stuck in a bent position or pops when you try to straighten it. This pop can hurt. It happens when the sheath surrounding your thumb tendon thickens so that the tendon can’t slide freely. Lots of texting or typing on a cellphone, or just holding a smartphone tightly, can cause trigger thumb. The treatment includes cutting down on your cellphone use.

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Wrist pain
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Thumb Arthritis

While it's not clear that cellphone use actually causes thumb arthritis, it can definitely make the symptoms worse. Thumb arthritis causes pain and tenderness at the base of your thumb, where it meets the wrist. Pinching motions, like gripping your phone or texting with your thumbs, are the type that can cause or worsen the condition. Though there’s no cure, rest, medication, and splints can all help.

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Man on phone
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Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

If you lean on your elbows to text or bend them to hold the phone to your ear, it can irritate the ulnar nerve at your elbow. This can cause numbness and tingling in the ring and small fingers, and soreness on the inside of the elbow or forearm. Cushion your elbow on hard surfaces. Don’t bend your elbow for a long time. Take breaks to move your arms in different directions. A night splint to keep your arm straight may help, too.

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pacemaker xray
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If you use your mobile phone very close to medical devices like pacemakers or implantable defibrillators, they may not work the way they're supposed to. The phones can even interfere with certain kinds of hearing aids. Talk to your doctor if you notice any problems with your medical device, especially if it happens when you use your smartphone.

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eye exam
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Eye Problems

The shorter wavelength of the blue light that smartphones give off can tire your eyes very quickly and cause pain. It may even damage your cornea (the clear lens on the front of the eye) and harm your vision. If you notice these problems, it’s best to limit your time with blue-light digital devices like smartphones and computers, or at least to take breaks often to rest your eyes.

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Doctor texting
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Health Care Mistakes

Phones are distracting for everyone. If your doctors or nurses are on their phones, it could make errors more likely. One study found that mistakes in checking symptoms and in proper treatment each went up by more than 12% with just a single interruption by a smartphone.

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Washing dishes
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Can You Hear Me Now?

Even if you don’t look at it, just putting a phone in plain view when you talk to someone can get in the way of making a strong connection. It’s especially a problem in close relationships and when you’re talking about something meaningful. Maybe save that social media update for later and focus on the person sitting right in front of you in real life.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 07/31/2019 Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on July 31, 2019


Thinkstock Photos


American Cancer Society: “Cellular Phones.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Text Neck: Is Smartphone Use Causing Your Neck Pain?”

Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research: “Text Neck Syndrome -- Systematic Review.”

Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine: “Sleep and Disease Risk.”

HealthGuidance.org: “Is Your Telephone a Pain in the Neck?”

Imperial Journal of Integrative Medicine: “Text Neck Syndrome - Systematic Review.”

International Journal of Health Sciences: “Health risks associated with mobile phones use.”

Journal of Physical Therapy Science: “Effects of visual fatigue caused by smartphones on balance function in healthy adults.”

Journal of Social and Personal Relationships: “Can you connect with me now? How the presence of mobile communication technology influences face-to-face conversation quality.”

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: “Contamination of UK mobile phones and hands revealed.”

Mayo Clinic: “Neck Pain.”

National Highway Safety Administration: “Distracted Driving.”

National Safety Council: “Distracted walking injuries on the rise; 52 percent occur at home,” “Distracted Driving Research, Infographics,” “Annual Estimate of Cell Phone Crashes 2013.”

National Sleep Foundation: “See: A great night's sleep can depend

on the visual conditions in your bedroom environment.”

NSF: “2011 NSF International Household Germ Study.”

Risk Management and Healthcare Policy: “Distraction: an assessment of smartphone usage in health care work settings.”

Rush University Center: “When Technology Hurts.”

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on July 31, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.