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Toilet Seats: Can You Catch Infections from Them?

By HERWriter
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Recently in the news, there was a noted “rash” of toilet seat rashes caused from contact with harsh cleaning chemicals that rubbed against the bottoms and thighs of toddlers. While these skin eruptions were caused by direct irritation, it reminds me of why so many women, including myself, never sit on a public toilet seat hoping to avoid contact with whatever may be brewing there. Can you really catch an infection from sitting on a toilet seat or would it actually be safe to sit down?

Public restrooms are harbingers of many different types of bacteria but fortunately the majority of them can only survive for a short time on a toilet seat. So while some people are concerned they could acquire an STD such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, the only way those bacteria could enter their body and cause an infection was if a sore or a cut came in contact with the live bacteria or if the bacteria were able to come in direct contact with their urethra or genital tract. According to Abigail Salyers, PhD, president of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) as reported to webmd.com, "To my knowledge, no one has ever acquired an STD on the toilet seat -- unless they were having sex on the toilet seat!"

One area of germ contamination we rarely think about is what happens when you flush the toilet. Germs from feces that have entered the water are aerosolized up into the air from the action of the water flowing down. My family and I watched an impressive demonstration of this on the television show MythBusters and we have all since started closing the lid of the toilet before flushing. Those bacteria-laden particles rise quite a distance from the toilet and have nowhere else to travel but to the other surfaces in your bathroom. If you are in a public toilet, it is best to leave the stall as soon as you flush to avoid exposure.

Speaking about flushing, the handle of the toilet is also a prime target for bacteria to congregate. It is recommended in a public toilet to use your foot to flush avoiding one place to pick up some germs. And as you head out to wash your hands be aware; according to studies at University of Arizona in Tucson, the highest amount of bacteria in a restroom is located at the sink due to an accumulation of standing water that frequently puddles around the faucets; a prime medium for germ growth.

Numerous studies have shown that people claim to wash their hands after using the bathroom but in reality many do not or they only do so quickly without scrubbing with soap. The water does not even need to be hot to wash your hands but scrubbing for at least 20-30 seconds is the most important way to dislodge any lurking old or newly acquired bacteria on your skin. If there are paper towels in the bathroom, use a paper towel to shut the running faucet water, not your newly cleaned hands. Use a new paper towel to dry your hands then use that same paper towel to open the door to leave.

Even though the likelihood of getting a bacterial infection from sitting on a toilet seat is pretty low, I think I will still follow the lead of my mother who told me at the age of six, “Never sit sweetie when you use a public toilet and try not to touch anything.”

source: www.webmd.com/balance/features/what-can-you-catch-in-restrooms

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Add a Comment6 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.

Keep Posting:)

January 14, 2016 - 1:47am

Hi Anonymous,

I'm not sure how your post was put with my article but it sounds like your girlfriend needs to go see a GYN doctor for a vaginal culture. Nystatin is for a yeast infection. She sounds like she has a bacterial infection so Nystatin won't work. Do go see a doctor as soon as you can.


May 6, 2010 - 6:17am
(reply to Michele Blacksberg RN)

That's probably not an option, why on earth would she need a GYN Doctor ? That makes me feel bad. I've seen it happening to female friends of mine and after taking those insertion drugs, they'll be alright.

May 8, 2010 - 4:21am
EmpowHER Guest

Hello Dr. Nikola, I am a boy of 21 and my girl friend is just 20, I think my girl friend one, i figured every time we made love, her vaginal smells somehow but it's hard for me to tell her such things because it really makes her feel bad probably ended up crying in most cases. Just bought her Nystatin insertion drug and the tablet which she takes in the morning and night. She doesn't welcome condom and we're very faithful to each other, lost her virginity to me though. I hate the smelling thing and we need to get rid of it, what do we do please ?

May 6, 2010 - 5:46am

Thanks mpingolt, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. I had a lot of fun writing it. I think what people really need to do is make sure they wash their hands! I recently flew on an airplane and man and his son each went into the bathroom and exited in seconds, obviously not washing their hands. Airplane bathrooms are one place I always use a paper towel to open the door.

March 1, 2010 - 4:10pm

I really enjoyed reading this article because you put germs into a perspective that wasn't as daunting as so many other articles. My mother and grandmothers have always told me to put a seat cover down, and I do once in a while, but I mean- it's my booty. I'm not really interacting with it while I'm using the restroom. You know?

March 1, 2010 - 3:33pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.