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How Bad Are the Germs in Public Restrooms, Really?

Extra vital than whether or not you employ a canopy, or sit or hover, is how nicely you clear your arms after utilizing the lavatory, Dr. Donner mentioned. Because of the bathroom plume impact and the usage of hand air dryers, which she mentioned can unfold germs from moist arms or close by open trash cans so far as 10 ft, any surface in a public restroom — flush handles, stall latches, sink faucets and exit doorways, for instance — will be contaminated. And the most typical route of an infection is “the charmingly termed ‘fecal-oral route,’” which happens when pathogens from an contaminated particular person’s feces get into your mouth after “touching contaminated surfaces after which touching your face,” Dr. Donner mentioned.

For hand washing to be efficient, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wetting your arms with clear water, scrubbing with cleaning soap for at the least 20 seconds, rinsing after which drying them. However most individuals don’t wash their arms for lengthy sufficient, and public restrooms are sometimes out of cleaning soap and paper towels. It’s typically additionally tough to scrub nicely, like in airplane toilets with their tiny sinks and trickles of water, and laborious to keep away from touching a floor afterward, Dr. Gerba mentioned. In spite of everything public restroom visits, “the most suitable choice is to scrub your arms, after which use a hand sanitizer on the way in which out,” he mentioned.

Different suggestions to bear in mind: When you convey a bag or purse right into a public restroom, keep away from placing it on the ground, which is likely one of the dirtiest surfaces in a toilet, Dr. Gerba mentioned. Preserve your cellphone stowed away to keep away from contaminating it, and attempt to keep away from touching surfaces as a lot as you possibly can, Dr. Donner really helpful. Additionally take into account closing the bathroom lid earlier than you flush as a public well being measure and a kindness to others; this step reduces the toilet plume considerably.

One factor you don’t want to fret about is contracting a sexually transmitted an infection in a restroom, Dr. Park mentioned. “I’m not going to say it’s completely unimaginable, but it surely’s so unlikely,” she mentioned. Pathogens like gonorrhea and chlamydia don’t survive for lengthy on surfaces, and they should get into the penis or vagina to trigger an infection, she mentioned. “The place we’re sitting on the bathroom seat, it’s simply not in the fitting neighborhood.”

Alice Callahan is a well being and science journalist based mostly in Oregon and a frequent contributor to The New York Instances.

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