Can You Really Catch Something From a Toilet Seat?

dirty toilet seat germs diseaseWe've all been there. You're at a concert or a sporting event and your only option is a super-dirty Johnny-on-the-spot. Or, you're in a bar at closing time and no matter how many tequila shooters you may have had, you can plainly see the toilet is straight-up terrifying. Even if you squat with the agility of a CrossFitter, you may still go home wondering, "Did I catch something from that toilet seat??"

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Much like that hilarious Seinfeld episode in which Jerry's girlfriend purports to have caught gonorrhea from riding a tractor in a bathing suit, sometimes it's hard to know what to believe. 

Michelle Barhaghi, MD, obstetrics and gynecology with Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Torrance, California, sets the record straight on where all those nasty germs are hiding.

"Because many disease-causing organisms can survive for only a short time on the surface of a toilet seat, it is not considered a common vehicle for transmitting infections to humans," Barhaghi explains. "For an infection to actually occur, though unlikely, the germs would have to somehow be transferred from the seat to the urethra/genital tract, or through a cut or sore on the exposed skin."

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While that's a relief, if you're still in the bathroom, you're not out of the woods yet!

Barhaghi says other potential areas of concern in the public restrooms include faucet handles, sinks, and towel dispensers. 

"Sinks are actually the greatest reservoir of bacteria in any restroom, mostly due to the accumulation of water, which creates an excellent breeding ground for micro-organisms," she says.

So, how do you avoid bringing home an unpleasant souvenir from a public bathroom?

"Thorough handwashing is the easiest way to prevent any potential infections from public restrooms," she says. "This includes rubbing soapy water all over the hands, fingers, and under the fingernails for at least 20 seconds. The friction from rubbing the hands together will loosen disease-causing particles. After a thorough rinse, it is recommended to repeat [the] process a second time." 

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The doctor also suggests preventing potential infection by flushing the toilet with your shoe. Keep a paper towel in hand to turn off the faucet and open the door handles. Avoid using toilet paper that is not fully covered in the bathroom stalls and use hot-air hand dryers whenever available.

Keep these tips in mind next time you're in a public restroom to remain as healthy as possible.

 

Image via iStock.com/Herzstaub

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