Are your headphones a coronavirus transmission risk?

Catriona Harvey-Jenner
Photo credit: krisanapong detraphiphat - Getty Images

From Runner's World

While the whole world works together to try to combat the fast-spreading coronavirus, we're all being extra cautious about the actions we take. For many, that means staying indoors and removing themselves from society so they're not a risk to others. But for those who don't have that option and must continue to go out to work, they are taking extra measures to remain as hygienic as possible.

We've become pretty au fait with the 'wash your hands' message, as well as the importance of not touching your face while outside (because if the virus is on your hands and it reaches your eyes, nose or mouth, that's how you catch it). But what about your ears?They're an 'entryway' into the body too - so are you putting yourself at risk by handling your headphones when out on a run with potentially unclean hands, and then inserting your headphones into your ears?

Particularly with headphones like Apple's AirPods or Beats Powerbeats Pro, where you're forced to touch the actual buds in order to get them in your ears. We asked Babylon Health doctor Claudia Pastides to clarify whether this might be the case.

Photo credit: All the rights for presented photos are my own. - Getty Images

"Coronavirus is spread by inhaling virus-filled droplets that are released by an infected person talking, coughing or sneezing, or by touching your hands against your eyes, nose or mouth after touching a surface that is contaminated with virus-filled droplets," explains the doctor.

"There is currently no evidence that coronavirus can get into your body through your ears, and it is unlikely that AirPods or headphones with the virus on them can pass the infection to you through your ears," she adds.

"However, it is important that anything you touch with your fingers regularly is kept clean and that you wash your hands well regularly for 20 seconds and don’t touch your face with unwashed hands, in order to minimise the risks of catching coronavirus," the expert says, reminding us of the coronavirus cardinal sins.

So while we have to be very careful with lots of things during this pandemic, it seems adjusting the volume on our headphones mid-run is not one of them. I'm off to listen to a podcast to celebrate.

Dr Claudia Pastides MRCGP MBBS iBSc is a GP and medical copywriter, working for healthcare app Babylon.

The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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