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

Attention allergy sufferers: all sorts of substances are deposited on the smartphone screen that can lead to allergic reactions. Scientists have detected cat and dog allergens as well as markers for mold and bacteria on smartphone displays. This contamination, which is invisible to us, can be enough to trigger an allergy flare in sensitive people. Her recommendation: Clean the screen more frequently to prevent allergic reactions.

At a allergy Our immune system reacts excessively to actually harmless substances such as pollenhouse dust or animal hair. It then reacts to such allergens in a similar way to real dangers such as pathogens or parasites. Allergy sufferers therefore have to contend with swollen mucous membranes, a runny nose, watery eyes and itchy skin when they come into contact with allergens. However, it is often difficult to avoid the allergy-causing substances. Among other things, they are in the air or on various surfaces such as the sofa or clothing.

So are allergens also lurking on the smartphone screen? To find out, researchers led by Hana Ruran from Boston Children’s Hospital developed special dummy telephones that were similar in size and surface to normal smartphones. After 15 volunteers had been in contact with the models for a longer period of time, Ruran and her colleagues examined whether and which allergens could be found on the screens. They also tested which cleaning agents were most effective at removing the residues.

Animal allergens, mold and bacteria

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

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

Frequent cleaning recommended

The researchers therefore recommend that people with allergies or asthma should clean their smartphones more frequently in order 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 allergens.

However, none of these chemicals are readily available in the drugstore, but only from special laboratory suppliers. But even common cleaning methods can help to rid the smartphone of at least some of the adhering allergens and bacteria. (Annals of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, 2022, doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2022.08.565)

Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

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