How to avoid catching diseases from a public bathroom, according to an NHS physician

Louis Staples
Wednesday 04 March 2020 15:45
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Image:(iStock)

In case you haven't heard, theres a going bug around.

Yup, that's right, we're obviously talking about Covid-19 aka coronavirus.

Since the virus began making its way around the world, people have been worrying about how they're going to go about their day-to-day lives. With a death rate of 3.4 per cent, according to the World Health Organisation, the virus is no laughing matter, and the government has already announced that up to one in five Brits might have to "self-isolate" to stop the spread of the virus.

One thing that a lot of people might avoid doing from now on (if they didn't already) is visiting a public toilet.

According to NHS physician, Dr Preethi Daniel, fears of catching a disease from a toilet seat is one of the most common questions patients ask her at the best of times, let alone when there's a potential pandemic on the horizon.

In particular people ask about catching genital diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, or syphilis. But Dr Daniel explains that this is very, very unlikely.

Writing for Healthista, she said:

To contract these diseases the germs would have to be directly transferred from the toilet seat to your genital tract, or through an open wound or sore on your legs or buttocks. 

You are more likely to be struck by lightning whilst riding a flying pig than catching a sexually transmitted disease from a public toilet seat, so please don’t worry.

The only bugs which one could possibly contract from a toilet seat are E-coli or Salmonella.

She also warns that the floor of public toilets have more germs than the seat, so keep your shoes on.

Funnily enough, trying to avoid getting a urine infection from the toilet seat can actually lead to getting a urine infection, Dr Daniel explains:

All that squatting and hovering we do to avoid touching the toilet seat, and the mad rush we are in to get out of the toilet cubicle are what can give us a urine infection. 

By not emptying your bladder completely, in a rush or if you are squatting, you are exposing your body to potentially harmful bacteria. 

She gave three solid pieces of advice if you're trying to avoid catching infections from public bathrooms.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet
  • Carry a travel size antibacterial hand sanitiser for extra protection
  • Cover the toilet seat with toilet paper or use antibacterial wipes before sitting

In addition to offering these good hygiene tips, Dr Daniel stresses that "there is no medical evidence to support the transmission of any diseases from a public toilet".

Phew! Finally some good news.

But coronavirus isn't a disease. As its name suggests, it's a virus.

So in terms of the specific threat of Covid-19 in public spaces and at home, and the latest info on how to avoid catching it, it's best to pay attention to the most up to date NHS guidelines.

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