The Hidden Dangers of Public Restrooms and What You Can Do To Protect Yourself
Do you cringe every time you visit a public restroom? Most people fear what's lurking on the toilet seat. Some people are even concerned they might contract STDs from public toilets. Let's break it down to see the real threats with public toilets and what you can do to protect yourself.
Yes, toilet seats are covered in germs. Some people perform hovering acrobatics to avoid touching the toilet seat. Though as 'ikky' as toilet seats can be, the greatest safety risk doesn't actually come from sitting on the toilet seat, it's what's lurking in the rest of the public restroom that is cause of concern. The germs on the toilet flush, on the door knobs, the taps and the door handles.
How can those other surfaces be worse than the toilet seat? Did you know that every time the toilet is flushed, it launches a ploom of germ filled droplets into the air, that travel upto 2 metres. And some of those germs can survive for up to 2 months!
Those germ filled droplets land on the person using the toilet and the surfaces in the restroom.
When at home, closing the toilet lid helps to reduce the spread of germs, though many public restroom toilets don't have lids, or people rarely close them.
All of those germs get on people's hands that they spread onto every surface they touch in the restroom, the flush, the door handles, the tap and the drier.
What about washing hour hands, doesn't that get rid of the germs?
Even if you wash your hands, you may not do it properly, says Tierno, author of The Secret Life of Germs. "Some individuals move their hands quickly under a flow of water for only a second or so, and they don't use soap. That's not going to do much good."
Washing the hands is important, though statistics show that 95% of peopole don't wash their hands properly. “Around 60 percent of women wash their hands properly, while the number is much lower for men, at around 30 percent at most,” says Jason Tetro, author of the Germ Code. By washing properly, he means wetting your hands with warm water, adding soap, scrubbing for 15 to 20 seconds, rinsing with warm water, then drying.
Then there's the sink and tap itself. Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson found that sinks are the greatest reservoir of germ colonies in restrooms, thanks in part to accumulations of water that become breeding grounds for tiny organisms.
Unless there's an automatic tap in the restroom, when your freshly washed 'clean hands' come into contact with the tap again, you're re-exposed to all those germs.
Then you're re-exposed again when leaving the rest room. All of the hygience protocols can be undone when touching the exit door.
“The door handles and push plates of public bathrooms are incredibly contaminated," says Tetro. "For men, they’re usually contaminated with fecal bacteria. When I study the women’s, they’re usually contaminated with yeast.”
We've talked about where the germs are. Though what risk do all these germs pose to your health? The chances of catching an STD from sitting on a public toilet seat is very low. Though there are many germs that do pose a health risk.
Gut infection – Faecal-borne bacteria including E. coli, streptococcus, staphylococcus and shigella are the most abundant bugs found in a public toilet. Contamination of surfaces by an infected person’s faeces can transmit their infections.
Some strains of E. coli (Escherichia coli) bacteria can cause bloody diarrhoea and abdominal cramps.
Shigella bacterium causes severe diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and dysentery, etc.
E.coli (Escherichia coli) is fecal-borne bacteria, and when you're talking about toilets, you're in the right neighborhood for contamination. E. coli is a bacteria that's normally found in our intestines, and if you're accidentally exposed to it -- usually from contaminated water or food, but it's been known to cling to nonporous surfaces, too -- you could be struck down with diarrhea (sometimes bloody), abdominal cramping and vomiting.
Gastrointestinal viruses such as norovirus (which is the infamous cruise ship crew curse), also cause stomach distress, and similar to E. coli, they are easily transmitted from person to person. Norovirus has been found contaminating nonporous surfaces, including toilet seats, for as long as two weeks (and that's despite those surfaces having been cleaned)
Shigella bacteria passes very easily among people, especially when you forget to wash your hands (or if you're among the 95 percent of people who don't correctly wash their hands). Shigellosis causes infectious, severe diarrhea, abdominal cramping and other gastrointestinal distress that may last for about a week And while the bacteria are most infectious during the diarrhea phase of the condition, they remain willing and able to infect you for weeks after their host is feeling better.
Shigella infections, similar to E. coli, happen when an infected person's feces contaminates a surface -- and, yes, those surfaces include toilets, toilet handles and toilet seats. You can also become infected if you consume contaminated food or water handled by an infected person who hasn't practiced good hygiene.
Lung and skin infections
Streptococcus can cause contagious throat and skin infections.
Staphylococcus bacteria that cause skin infections, pneumonia and food poisoning linger around on toilet surfaces for longer periods, increasing the chances of disease transmission.
About 39 percent of toilet seats harbor this nasty bug [source:Shoemaker].
Staph (Staphylococcus) likes to hang around, and it can contaminate a nonporous surface for longer than you may expect. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), for example, can live on a toilet seat -- and any nonporous part of a toilet -- for more than two months. And it only takes as few as three seconds for it to transmit from a seat to your skin [source:Clinical Infectious Diseases].
Yeast Infections - There is a slight chance toilets can harbour yeast populations at the front of the bowl, "and it can possibly touch the genitals. If that happens, there is a likelihood that you can come up with an infection." said Tetro. These are usually present in washrooms used by women.
So what can you do to protect yourself? We all need to use public restrooms at some point. The answer isn't to cross out legs and wait until we get home. Though there are steps you can take to protect yourself from the 'ik factor' and the health risks that public toilets pose.
Spray or wipe the toilet seat with a sanitiser
I use the Young Living Thieves Spray, it fits in the handbag easily and is a powerful sanitiser.
The Thieves Wipes are also a great option for cleaning and sanitising public toilets seats.
Use toilet paper to press the flush button.
Flush with the lid down on the toilet seat or exit the cubicle quickly after flushing
Wash your hands thoroughly after you use the toilet.
Instead of using the chemical soaps in rest rooms, I use the Young Living waterless hand purifier. Its small compact size makes it perfect to fit in the handbag.
With the Thieves waterless hand purifier, it's designed for use in public restrooms and travel. It's a waterless hand wash, meaning you don't need to use water. By using the Thieves waterless hand purifier, we can avoid touching the germ-ridden taps, sink and drier.
I simply use a small dollop of the Thieves waterless hand purifier, rub the hands together. Plus, it smells great and doesn't dry the skin.
If I don't have the Thieves waterless hand purifier handy, I use an essential oil drop on the hands to clean and cleanse, either Thieves essential oil or lemon essential oil.
What is Thieves Spray? It's an all-natural spray concentrate from Young Living. Based on the Young Living Thieves essential oil blend of clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemon and rosemary essential oils, the Thieves spray features all-natural plant based ingredients without any harmful chemicals. Find out more about Thieves Spray and the Thieves Spray all-natural ingredients here.
Where to Buy Thieves Products in Australia?
In Australia? Then purchase your Thieves products here.