Using public restrooms always feels like a gamble. Just the thought of what kind of germs could be waiting for you on toilet seats can be enough to make you want to hold it in and wait until you're somewhere safe (i.e. your toilet at home). But can you really catch diseases in restrooms? Can you get an STD from a toilet seat?
Many of us refuse to let our bare skin touch public toilet bowls, while some of us have resorted to wielding pocket-sized disinfectant sprays to prepare the area for butt-planting. Some people cover the entire toilet seat with paper before sitting down.
But should we be so anxious about using public toilets?
Can You Get An STD From A Toilet Seat?
The short answer is no. If you feared getting chlamydia from a public toilet seat, you can rest easy. There's no evidence of anyone getting an STD from a toilet seat.
"To my knowledge, no one has ever acquired an STD on the toilet seat — unless they were having sex on the toilet seat!" Abigail Salyers, president of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), tells WebMD.
That's because these germs don't survive for long on the cold surfaces of a toilet. According to NYU Langone Medical Center microbiology and pathology professor Philip Tierno, viruses like herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea can only live outside the body for around 10 seconds, Self reports.
Bacteria Found In Toilets: What Can You Catch?
Public toilets, as with any public space, do expose you to germs. Studies have found that you can catch staphylococcus, E.coli, shigella, and other dangerous bacteria and viruses from toilets. These are bacteria and viruses that are found in feces and vomit, and can be sprayed into the air by a toilet's flush.
But even then, your chances of getting infected from bacteria found in toilets are very low — unless they come into contact with an open cut, or are carried into the mouth, nose, or eyes via your hands.
Your best bet against bacteria found in toilets (and any other public space) is always washing your hands properly. The toilet seat is the least of your worries — studies have found that door handles, flush handles, faucet handles, and so forth are either as dirty or dirtier than seats.
Wash your hands with soapy water for around 20 to 30 seconds, including under your fingernails, and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door.
And because you're more likely to be exposed to germs from other surfaces (e.g. keyboards, gym mats, even money) remember to wash your hands frequently — not only after using a public toilet.