Allergens are lurking on smartphones too – animal allergens, mold markers and the like tend to accumulate on displays.


Allergy sufferers take note: Smartphone screens tend to accumulate all kinds of substances that can cause allergies. Scientists have detected markers for cat and dog allergens as well as mold and bacteria on smartphone displays. This contamination, which is invisible to us, may be sufficient to provoke allergies in sensitive people. Her recommendation: Clean the screen more often to prevent allergic reactions.

on a Allergies Our immune system overreacts to really harmless substances like Pollenhouse dust or animal hair, It then reacts to such an allergen in the same way as real threats such as pathogens or parasites. Therefore allergy sufferers have to deal with swollen mucous membranes, runny nose, watery eyes and itchy skin when they come in contact with the allergen. However, it is often difficult to avoid allergy-causing substances. Among other things, they are in the air or on various surfaces such as sofas or clothing.

So are allergens hiding on smartphone screens too? To find out, researchers led by Hana Ruran of Boston Children’s Hospital developed special dummy telephones that were similar in shape and surface to normal smartphones. After 15 volunteers were exposed to the model over a long period of time, Ruran and his colleagues examined whether and which allergens could be found on the screen. They also tested which cleaning agents were most effective at removing residue.

Animal Allergens, Mold and Bacteria

The result: increased concentrations of various allergens, endotoxins and so-called beta-D-glucans (BDG) were found in the smartphone. According to Ruran, these are a meaningful marker for mold mildew. The sugar compounds are found in the cell walls of fungi and have been linked to chronic respiratory diseases.

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The research team also found an increasing number of cat and dog allergens on pet owners’ cell phones. So the substances that trigger allergic reactions “may also come from a source that most people haven’t considered”, says Ruran’s colleague Peter Thorne. Endotoxins found on cell phones are also a marker for exposure to gram-negative bacteria. This confirms that there are also heaps of bacteria on the display.

Frequent cleaning is recommended

The researchers therefore recommend that people with allergies or asthma should clean their smartphones more often to expose themselves to fewer allergens. In the study, a mixture of the cleaning agents chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium worked best against BDG and endotoxin. The combination of benzyl benzoate and tannic acid was particularly effective against cat and dog allergies.

However, none of these chemicals are readily available at the drugstore, but only from specialized laboratory suppliers. But even the usual methods of cleaning can help get rid of at least some of the clinging allergens and bacteria from the smartphone. (Annals of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, 2022, DOI: 10.1016/j.uni.2022.08.565,

Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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