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Take the Scare Factor out of Public Restrooms: Step One, Stay Calm

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder related image Photo: Getty Images

I was in an airport last week on my way home from a lovely but tiring vacation. And, like most us, I felt I had better visit the restroom before boarding the plane. That's right, the dreaded airport restroom!

I slipped into the stall and noticed the disposable toilet seat cover compartment was empty, so I decided to hover. As I sat there hovering, my legs began shaking from five days of walking. My body was aching and I was ready to go home. Then, I did the unthinkable: I sat down. Yes, friends and neighbors, my secret is out. I allowed public bathroom germs on my butt.

Surprisingly enough, I'm still alive and well. Nothing is itching, I haven't broken out in a rash yet, and no warts are growing anywhere. Maybe, just maybe, I'll live to tell my grandchildren about this horrific experience.

In an article on wedmd.com, the author wrote, "The toilet seat is not a common vehicle for transmitting infections to humans." Whew! As I read further, I discovered that most disease-causing organisms can only survive a short time on the surface of the seat.  If you have a cut or open sore on your buttocks or thighs, there may be a chance but overall it is highly unlikely.

I felt better and better as I finished the article, especially when I read this quote from Abigail Salyers, PhD, president of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM): "To my knowledge, no one has ever acquired an STD on the toilet seat -- unless they were having sex on the toilet seat!" Well, I wasn't doing that!

As for germs inside the bowl, microscopic organisms in feces can be released into the air when flushing the toilet. For that reason, Philip Tierno, MD, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center and Mt. Sinai Medical Center, recommends leaving the bathroom stall immediately after flushing to avoid airborne germs propelling in the mist and getting onto your clothes. "The greatest aerosol dispersal occurs not during the initial moments of the flush, but rather once most of the water has already left the bowl," he said.

My point here is not to not worry so much about having to protect yourself from germs from the toilet seat, but to lighten up. Don't panic. In fact, you should have respect for your fellow woman. You may be spreading germs to her by hovering.

If you've read this far, you're probably asking "Why am I reading this disgusting article?" My answer would be to point out that we are all human and we all have to use public restrooms at some point in our lives.

The "bottom" line is — if you are healthy and sensible, the public toilet seat won't kill you. You too can survive a visit to the airport restroom.

The second part of this article will address what to do once you leave the stall.


Reviewed May 23, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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