Can You Get an STD From a Toilet Seat? We Asked an Ob-Gyn for the Facts
Is squatting really necessary?
One of the earliest lessons I remember my mother teaching me wasn't to eat my vegetables or use my manners...it was to always squat when using a public toilet. There are germs lurking on the seat, she told me, and you do not want them on your tush. So, for years without fail, I squatted, afraid of the germs might be waiting for me if I dared to sit.
But as I got older, I started to wonder, are the germs on toilet seats really that scary? Sure, squatting might be sanitary, but do I actually have to be afraid of catching an STD if my thigh muscles fail me and my bum touches the toilet?
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After consulting Health Advisory Board member Christine Greves, MD, ob-gyn at the Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, I finally have the answer: No, there's really no chance of catching an STD from a toilet seat. Okay, to be fair, there could be the tiny, tiniest chance, but Dr. Greves says it's not worth worrying about.
"STDs don't usually survive when they fall off the human body," she explains. "A toilet seat doesn't offer an environment for STDs to thrive, so it can't live there for more than 10 seconds." They much prefer the environment that warm human tissue and fluids create, not that of cold, hard toilet seats.
Mayo Clinic also states, "Because the [herpes] virus dies quickly outside of the body, it's nearly impossible to get the infection through contact with toilets, towels or other objects used by an infected person." The same goes for other STDs, like syphilis, HPV, HIV, and pubic lice, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you're wondering why you've been squatting or putting toilet paper on the seat this whole time, I'm right there with you. But Dr. Greves assured me it hasn't been for nothing. "It can make us feel better mentally," she says. "It might not protect us from an infection, but it can protect us from worrying about what germs we might have sat on."
One thing you should do, however, every time you make a trip to the bathroom: Wash your hands. If you pick up bacteria from the door lock, toilet flusher, or other surfaces, then touch your eyes or mouth without realizing it, you could deposit those germs right into your system. Use soap and warm water, and always make a stop at the hand dryer or paper towel dispenser.