I was recently writing a book chapter on smartphones and their medical uses when traveling abroad. In particular, I was researching key health apps and how phones can be used by health providers when going to underserved regions abroad.

I came across an interesting article in the Journal of Travel Medicine: “The ‘selfie’ phenomenon: reducing the risk of harm while using smartphones during international travel”.

Researchers Gerard Flaherty MD and Joonkoo Choi did a search on PubMed and Scopus to learn more about the selfie phenomenon and also researched news articles to find case reports of harm. They compiled a table of what they call “Selfie-related traumatic risks”:

selfie injuries table

They address “selfie sticks” as well — long expandable sticks that enable your phone to be extended away from you. They give an example of a middle age male hiker who struck by lightening in Wales when carrying a selfie stick and give several examples of where these sticks caused harm.

selfie stick

The researchers feel that travel medicine health providers should address the ‘selfie’ phenomenon with their patients. Having had clinic visits with travel physicians before going abroad, I personally feel there are a lot more important things to discuss than avoiding taking selfies in certain scenarios. That said, the research paper itself was a quick and interesting read, and I really didn’t know there were so many deaths and injuries related to people taking ill advised selfies.

Link to the research study