Can You Really Get a Sexually Transmitted Disease from a Toilet Seat?

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Here's the situation: you desperately need to use the toilet, but there's no other option than the bathroom at the public park or service stations. Public toilets scare you, and you probably try hard not to think about the various disease-causing germs that might be spread all over the seat and bowl.

But is it really possible to catch STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) from a toilet seat?


Image: Susana Secretariat via Flickr

According to Professor Basil Donovan, a sexual health expert, this is not possible, because even if there is a presence of virus and bacteria on toilet seats, the pathogens cannot survive long after vacating the human body. The Mayo Clinic agrees with his assessment, especially when it comes to diseases such as herpes.

An STD, as the name suggests, is sexually transmitted and is spread through sexual activities such as skin-to-skin contact, oral sex, intercourse, etc. Donovan further explains that STDs don’t go well with heat and dry conditions. Many of the organisms are fragile and cannot last more than few minutes as they tend to dry out and die.

Other Theoretical Risks

But just in case there are a ton of disease-causing organisms surviving on a toilet seat, can you catch an infection?

Again, Donovan says no. It is highly unlikely, as none of the body parts which are vulnerable to sexual infections make direct contact with toilet seats. Infections such as warts cannot transmit to bare skin unless there is a break in the skin. If a virus touches the outer layer of the skin, it cannot just attach itself.

In all his years of experience in treating patients, Donovan reveals that he has never come across or suspected that a toilet seat could pose a threat for STDs.

It is also unlikely that toilet seats could be the source of urinary tract infections, since your urethra also does not touch the seats.

Then How Did This Myth Come About?

So, if STDS cannot be caught because of a toilet seat, where has the idea come from? Donovan says doctors may not be all that innocent in making this paranoia. Late in the 19th century, doctors declared that infections associated with STDs could happen in a variety of ways and not just via sex. They also said you could acquire syphilis via drinking fountains that had attached cups. Well, we all know that was inaccurate.

Precautionary Measures

The next time you use a public toilet, you don’t really have to worry about an STD infection. However, it is important to consider certain other hygienic factors when you are on the toilet.

Ensure that you wash and dry your hands properly after using a toilet. This is one of the most essential things in reducing the spread of germs which can lead to digestive diseases such as rotavirus. Avoid touching your face until your hands are washed properly after you use the toilet. Clean your hands with soap and make sure you dry them well too. Drying is just as important as washing because there are chances that you could touch things in the bathroom with a wet hand. Any remaining germs in the water can be dried up, and the spreading can be avoided.


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