I have a very strong dislike for public bathrooms. I think it stems from my childhood and my mother’s constant reminders of not to sit or touch the toilet seat and to wash my hands when finished. This was often followed by “don’t touch the door handle with your clean hands!” You never quite know when, where and how a child can be traumatized or what long term effects it may have. As someone who travels and must with some frequency use public rest rooms, every time I enter one I can hear my mom’s voice telling me what to do. I’m pretty sure I’ve done the same thing to my son.
I think perhaps this is why I was so interested in an article that popped up discussing if germs can in fact be caught from public toilet seats. First, you may wonder why toilets are of such interest in the first place. While perhaps a bit personal and a bit TMI - microbes from our gut actually make up 25-54% of our poop. The other gross truth is that our poop can carry a wide range of infectious pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus, as well as viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus and hepatitis A. The good news, is that catching something from sitting on the seat of a public toilet is not very likely. The reason being is that most gastrointestinal diseases are transmitted via the fecal-oral route meaning that “you gotta eat it to get it”. Hence the reason why my mom was always so adamant about hand washing.
While the seat may not be the crux of the problem, flushing the toilet may be. I recall reading a study back in 2011 about what happens when we flush the toilet, and wondering how the heck I was ever to get out of the stall unscathed. According to the researchers when a toilet is flushed, germs found in plume up and settle over quite a wide area – basically everything you can see or find in a toilet stall including the door handle. My motto is flush and run!
This leads me to wonder how many people use their cell phones while sitting on the toilet. Cell phones when tested have been found to harbor far more germs than the seat of a public toilet. Almost as gross of course are the statistics of how many people DO NOT wash their hands after using the “facilities”. I wonder what the number of non-hand washing, cell phone users there are? Perhaps the next time you “borrow” your friend’s or your spouse’s phone and put it up to your ear and mouth you may want to consider where it has been!
I guess mom had at least two things right. Wash your hands after using the toilet and for the love of Pete DO NOT touch the door handle on the way out!