The debate about whether one can catch an STD from a public toilet seat has been raging for a long time now. Health forums are full of threads with different opinions. Health experts have written about it on their blogs and newsletters, but still the debate persists. Isn’t it time we laid it to rest once and for all? Can you get an STD from public toilet seats? Are public toilet seats safe enough or would you rather relief yourself hovering peculiarly over the toilet seat?
This article aims to clear the truths, myths and relationship between public toilets and sexually transmitted diseases.
Some people, especially ladies, do not sit on a public toilet seat for fear that there are scary germs lurking on the toilet seat ready to get them infected with untreatable STDS. They will avoid public toilets at all costs. If they are ultimately forced to use one, they use peculiar postures in the bathroom to make sure that no part of their body comes into contact with the toilet seat. Is your fear of catching a disease from a public toilet seat far-fetched or is it real?
It is possible but…
First things first. Thinking that you can catch an STD from a toilet seat is not far-fetched. There might be all manner of germs and bacteria lurking on those public toilet seats in your workplace or at the gas station toilet. The common bugs you will find on a toilet seat range from common viruses like Hepatitis A and the common cold virus to other unfamiliar suspects like E. coli, streptococcus, Shigella bacteria. There could also be a multitude of other sexually transmitted microorganisms responsible for STIs like chlamydia and herpes. A public restroom, in general, offers a rich breeding ground for germs, viruses, and bacteria.
However, before you swear by the moon and the stars that this is the last time you are setting foot into a public toilet, keep in mind that the toilet seat is the least likely way of catching an STI. Many bacteria and viruses that cause STDS cannot survive for more than a few minutes outside the human body. For an infection to occur, the microorganism has to be transferred from the toilet seat into your urethra through the genital tract or a through a cut on your buttocks or thighs. While there is a slight possibility of this happening, it is highly unlikely.
But can you get herpes from a toilet seat?
This is one of the commonest myths about public toilet seats and STDs. Many people tend to believe that they can catch herpes from the toilet seat and other surfaces; this is a myth.
There are two types of herpes: HSV1 and HSV2.
HSV1 (oral herpes) comes from physical contact with an infected person. Kissing someone who has cold sores will most probably give you the virus. In fact, if you’ve ever had cold sores, you will most likely test positive for HSV1. HSV1 usually lasts for a week. HSV2, on the other hand, mostly comes from having sexual intercourse with an infected person. In both cases, the virus, even when treated, remains in the person’s body until the next outbreak.
Both types of herpes are highly contagious, which is why the myth that one can get herpes from as toilet seat persists. The herpes virus is very unstable. It will begin to disintegrate and die the moment it leaves the human body. The slightest change in temperature renders the herpes simplex virus (HSV) useless. The only plausible way you can get infected with herpes is through skin-to-skin contact (kissing, oral sex or sexual intercourse), not surface-to-skin contact.
Even the STD viruses, such as HIV and hepatitis virus, which can remain stable for extended periods of time after leaving the human body are not easily transmittable via surface-to-skin contact. Both HIV and hepatitis are transmitted through the bloodstream. They would need a point of entry into your bloodstream before they can infect you. So, unless you have wounds on your buttocks and thighs, you’d be pretty safe from these too.
Be cautious when you are getting into a sexual relationship. Get tested and get to know your partner’s sexual history before you decide to get sexually involved with him or her. If your partner is infected with herpes, do not have sex with them without protection. Stock some condoms and dental dams for those steamy nights.
What about Chlamydia? Can you get chlamydia from a toilet seat?
You can easily get chlamydia from having sex, but not from using the toilet. That is it.
Chlamydia, which is a common sexually transmitted disease, is caused by chlamydia trachomatis, a bacteria.
Unlike some other STIs, the only way that chlamydia is transmitted is through having sexual intercourse with an infected person. Specifically, the bacteria crosses over if sexual fluids (vaginal fluids, cum or pre-cum) comes into contact with mucous membranes.
You can’t get chlamydia from a toilet seat because it is highly unlikely that you will be coming into contact with someone’s sexual fluids on the toilet seat. However, assuming that someone just had sex on the seat, and you were dumb pressed enough to use the bathroom immediately, it would still be unlikely to get infected with chlamydia. Reason? The bacteria cannot survive outside the human body for more than a few seconds.
But assuming that the bacteria miraculously prolonged their lives, there is another reason you are unlikely to get infected. To get chlamydia from a toilet seat, you’d have to bring your genitals into contact with the toilet seat, which is impossible if you are straddling the toilet the right way.
Remember that the chlamydia bacteria has to come into contact with any of your mucous membranes for an infection to happen and for these reasons, it is improbable that you can get chlamydia from a toilet seat.
There is no recorded medical proof that anyone has ever caught chlamydia from a toilet seat. You’ll probably be the first one or you’ll be lying your way out of a precarious situation with your partner. Pray that s/he does not read this article.
What about Genital Crabs?
Crabs are little parasitic insects that live on human blood and infest the groin region. They are considered a sexually transmitted diseases as infection often occurs via sexual contact with an infected person.
Most of the horror stories you will hear about public toilet seats and STDs talk about catching pubic lice from a public toilet seat. Understandably, pubic lice travel very quickly and are easily transferred from one person to another. Cross infection typically occurs through sexual contact, sharing beddings, clothes or towels. However, pubic lice are rarely passed on from a toilet seat.
But can you get crabs from a toilet seat?
There is a slight possibility that you could catch crabs from a toilet seat. Of all the STDs, this is probably the one with the highest likelihood of being passed on a public toilet seat.
If someone with pubic lice visited the bathroom ahead of you, and a few happened to drop onto the seat, then they can latch onto your pubic hair. Unlike many other STD-causing microorganisms, crabs can survive outside their host for up to 48-hours, which is quite a lot of time to have them latch onto someone else.
Nightclub restrooms are especially notorious for passing crabs around. At any one time in a nightclub, there will be several people lining up to use the facilities, especially in the ladies. Some girls sit while others squat. A sitter could drop a few on the seat if she happens to be infested. If you entered the loo a few seconds later, a louse would probably latch on your pubic hair or undergarment, breed and before you know it, you are totally infested.
If you are worried about catching crabs from a public toilet seat, consider lining the seat with toilet paper and hovering over the bowl rather than sitting on it. If you are hairless down there, you have nothing much to worry about as the crabs only live in hair.
So, What STDs Can You Get from a Toilet Seat?
Seriously, the only way you will catch an STD is by having unprotected intercourse with someone who is infected with an STD. They are named sexually transmitted diseases for a reason. Of course some will catch you from having skin contact with an infected person, but rarely will you get an STD from a toilet seat.
There is a slight chance that some pubic lice might jump on you, but that rarely happens unless the bathroom is squalid and rarely gets cleaned. Crabs do not have legs that they can use to hold onto the smooth toilet seat surface.
Ironically, most of the diseases you’d catch from sharing a restroom are not sexually transmittable. They have more to do with hygiene. Germs from feces might, for instance, be propelled into the air when the toilet is flushed. The propulsions mostly occurs when most of the water has left the bowl. Leave the toilet immediately you flush it, and you’ll be safe.
Other red zones in a restroom include faucets handles, sinks and towel dispensers. Imagine someone emerging from the bathroom and turning the faucet handle with dirty hands. There is a reason your elementary teacher kept repeating you sanitize your hands thoroughly after visiting the toilet. You should also avoid holding onto other surfaces when you visit the toilet to minimize your chances of collecting germs.
Here is the bottom-line. As long as you observe basic hygiene, and you do not lick the toilet seat (ew, yuck, gross), you will be safe from many, if not all, diseases. Wash your hands with soap every time you visit the toilet. Do not hold your walls in the toilet. If it helps, carry a hand sanitizer in your bag.
If all it took to catch an STD was sitting on a public toilet seat, we would all be sick. The world would be depopulated. And you wouldn’t have to worry about sharing a restroom with a hundred of your colleagues. You’d have it all to yourself.
Some 7 Solid Facts about Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Now that you have the necessary knowledge of what you can and cannot get from a toilet seat, why don’t you take a few more minutes to educate yourself with some solid facts about STDs?
- Sexually transmitted diseases, as the name suggests, are spread from having sexual intercourse with an infected person.
- Most STDS are easier to transmit from male to female than the other way round.
- STDs vary in how contagious they are, but none of them is transferred via a public toilet seat, unless you are having sex in the toilet, of course.
- A couple of STIs (syphilis and herpes, to be specific) are transmittable via direct nonsexual contact with lesions on an infected person. Maybe it’d help to make sure there is no one on the toilet seat before you sit on it ?
- Considering how people sit on toilet seats, it is highly unlikely that their genital and anal infections would come into direct contact with the seat.
- Urine does not carry any STIs but isn’t it gross when someone leaves urine droplets on the toilet seat. Be responsible. Wipe off those stray droplets from the toilet seat
- You can get an infection without necessarily having penetrative sex. Crabs, herpes, HPV, and scabies can be contracted through kissing, mutual masturbation or from sleeping in the same bed with an infected person
Hopefully, you now have all the information you need to keep yourself STDs-free. Take care of yourself. Having you and your sexual partner get tested is one of the best ways to protect yourself from STDs. If you are in doubt about him or her, make sure you use adequate protection during intercourse.