HEADLINES Published June14, 2015 By Staff Writer

Can You Catch a Disease from a Toilet Seat? Not as Often as You Think.

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It is harder than you think to catch a disease from a toilet seat.
(Photo : commons.wikimedia.org)

There are an awful lot of people out there who never let themselves actually sit on a public toilet seat. They hover or they put a layer of paper down or do something, but they never, ever sit because everyone knows you could catch some disease from a toilet seat, right? Isn't that what your mother told you?

Your mother was mostly, but not entirely, wrong. Yes, it is possible to catch an infection from a toilet seat in a public bathroom, but the seat is relatively low in risk compared to other surfaces in the bathroom.

It is a myth that you can catch a sexually transmitted disease from a toilet seat. There is no medical evidence that anyone has ever caught gonorrhea, syphilis, or chlamydia from a public toilet. The organisms that cause these (and the majority of other diseases, for that matter) cannot live for a long time on a hard surface like a toilet seat. You would have to bring your genitals into contact with the toilet seat itself--which would mean that you were sitting on it wrong--and then sit for a while to actually catch an infection.

What about catching other types of infections from a toilet seat? Possibly, yes; but not real likely. There are some disease-causing organisms that can be found on a toilet seat. These include Staphylococcus strains, E. coli, Streptococcus strains, and norovirus, all of which can be carried in feces. If feces is visible on the toilet seat, choose another toilet.

If you are still nervous about toilet seats, use an antiseptic wipe on the seat before you sit down. These are available in pocket-sized packets.

However, whatever you do, wash your hands well before you leave the bathroom! The best way to prevent catching a disease is to wash your hands regularly. Use soap each and every time and lather your hands for at least 10 seconds before you rinse.

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