Jun 18, 2019
Selfies seem like the perfect souvenir from a beautiful vista or a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
People take millions of them every day to post on social media. Most of the time the photos are simply a fun way to connect with friends and followers, but sometimes the pursuit of the perfect photo can end in death or injury.
We talked to Cedars-Sinai doctors about the selfie deaths in the news and other selfie-related injuries.
Selfies were linked to 259 fatalities between 2011 and 2017.
The leading cause was drowning, followed by incidents involving transportation, such as taking a selfie near a moving train, according to a study by the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care.
Researchers say the actual number may be much higher. It also doesn't account for and nonfatal injuries.
Ever heard of selfie wrist? It's a real thing.
Some officials have started adding "No Selfie Zone" signs in popular tourist areas that are especially risky. The US Forest Service has warned Lake Tahoe visitors to stop taking selfies with bears.
Most selfie-related deaths and injuries are preventable. "Taking a selfie is about using cellphones and selfie sticks responsibly, which includes being aware of your surroundings," says Dr. Sam Torbati, co-chair of Emergency Medicine.
Selfie safety tips
Most selfie-related injuries are a result of distraction—people get so focused on taking the perfect shot that they ignore basic safety. Practice these basics to prevent putting yourself or others in danger:
- Pose near a moving train or other vehicle
- Take selfies while crossing the street, driving, cycling, or boating
- Pose with wildlife, including marine life and animals at the zoo
- Include any weapon or explosive device in a selfie
- Attempt to capture a stunt with a selfie
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Keep away from ledges, stairs, and drop-offs
- Stay behind railings and barriers
- Keep your eyes on your path, not your phone, while walking or hiking
- Use extra caution around pools and other bodies of water
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take a great photo, but it's not worth your health—or your life. If you do suffer a selfie-related injury, don't be too embarrassed to seek medical attention.
Beyond selfie accidents
Ever heard of selfie wrist? It's a real thing. This form of carpal tunnel syndrome can develop as a result of flexing the wrist to take selfies.
It can cause pain and swelling, and any time there's inflammation there is a risk of it becoming a chronic issue, according to Dr. Natasha Trentacosta, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute.
"It's similar to the type of repetitive strain injury we started to see as video games became popular," she explains. "We refer to that as Nintendo thumb or gamer's grip."
Dr. Trentacosta suggests giving your arm a break from time to time, using a selfie stick or asking a friend to take the photo. If you are experiencing pain and swelling in your wrist, she recommends these home remedies:
- Rest, ice, and elevate your arm
- Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs
- Use a brace or splint
- Try natural anti-inflammatories, such as ginger or turmeric
- Apply CBD oils and creams