Dangers of Using Public Toilets and How You Can Stay Safe

Dangers of Using Public Toilets and How You Can Stay Safe

A public toilet is not one of the cleanest and polished places in the world, and nobody likes to visit one unless, of course, it’s an emergency. The thought of using a public toilet can give anyone jitters, and it is much worse for a germophobe. Germs inhabit every nook and corner of public restrooms, and as soon as you touch the door handle of a public toilet, you are exposed to bacteria. Sitting on a toilet seat of a public restroom is not a pleasant experience for anyone. The thought of using a toilet seat which has been used by so many people will no doubt make you quiver, but you can consider using a toilet sanitiser to get rid of the germs on and around the toilet seat.

The germs lying in the unkempt public restrooms can put you at the risk of various infections and diseases. Hence, making wise choices is essential. If you don’t, you may be susceptible to the following infections because of using a public toilet.

1. Gut Infection

Faecal-borne bacteria like E.coli, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, etc., lurk in abundance on the surface of public toilets. If you come in contact with the contaminated surfaces, you’ll be exposed to these bacteria, and you could be struck down with diarrhoea.

2. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Bacteria responsible for UTIs thrive in moist temperatures and do not survive long. However, the E.coli bacteria which is transferred to the bowl through a person’s faeces can survive. While sitting on the toilet seat and doing your business, the water in the bowl may splash on to your private parts (gross!), and the bacteria may reach your anus and urethral opening, which may lead to UTI.

Urinary tract infections

3. Viral Infections

The virus that is responsible for the common cold does not survive for long; hence it is less likely to infect you. However, other viruses such as norovirus and influenza linger on faucets, sinks, flushes, etc. and may enter your system through the genital tract or urethra.

4. Skin Infections

Staphylococcus bacteria remain on the toilet surface for long and can put you at the risk of contracting skin infections and pneumonia.

Safety Tips to Follow While Using a Public Toilet

Using a public toilet is no doubt a nightmare, but in unavoidable situations, we are left with no option but to use one. However, fret not – we have an action plan that will make your next public restroom visit a less-dangerous experience. Try the below-mentioned tips to lower your risk of contracting a cold and flu, and faecal-born diseases.

1. Enter the restroom like a pro – do not touch the door handle directly.

To begin with, use the cleanest stall of a public restroom. And do not touch any surfaces of the toilet directly, and that includes the doorknob. A door handle of a public toilet is one of the most common hotspots for bacteria, so avoid touching it directly. You can push the door with your elbow or use a tissue paper to open the door.

2. Assess the seat and use a toilet paper – it’s there for a purpose!

Do not just walk in and sit on the toilet seat to do your business. Be on the lookout for stains and dampness on the seat. Those could be the traces of urine. Wad up some toilet paper and wipe off the seat nicely, making sure you don’t touch anything. Also, use a toilet seat cover before sitting on the seat if you can. If toilet seat covers are unavailable, you can put toilet paper on the seat before using it.

Toilet paper on toilet seat

3. Better yet, use a toilet seat sanitiser to disinfect the seat.

If the idea of cleaning (and accidentally touching the seat with your hands) the seat of a public toilet using a toilet paper seems gross to you, then you can use a toilet sanitizer. You can try Aringel’s Sit Safe Toilet Seat Sanitiser. This herbal sanitiser is available in the form of a spray. You can spray it onto the toilet seat from a distance of about 7-8 inches and wait for a few seconds for it to work. This herbal spray will kill germs within seconds and prevent you from the risk of contracting urinary tract infections (UTIs), norovirus (which can cause diarrhoea and vomiting), Staphylococcus, etc. Furthermore, it can also be used on door handles, faucets, or flush handles. It can even help get rid of bad odours from the toilet. A toilet sanitiser is a godsend for germophobes as well as for those who ‘hold in’ just to avoid using public toilets. Spray it on the seat and ‘let go’ without worrying.

4. Flush, but don’t touch the flush directly.

Never forget to flush once you are done. However, never touch the flush directly in a public toilet. Just like toilet seats and faucets, flushes are also a breeding ground for bacteria. You can wrap your finger with a toilet paper then press the flush handle. Toss the tissue paper into the toilet bowl while it’s flushing or throw it in the dustbin. When we flush, the germs may spread in the air, so leave the toilet while it is still flushing.

5. Wash your hands.

Follow the same standard hygiene rule that you probably always do, and wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds. Then use a paper towel to dry your hands. While exiting the public restroom, open the doorknob with a paper towel. Don’t touch it with your bare hands.

A woman washing her hands

6. Opt for Indian-style toilets, wherever and whenever you can.

Using a western-style toilet in most places, you may have probably forgotten what it is like to squat and do your business, but if you want to get fitter and healthier, Indian-style toilets are your answer. Indian-style toilets are more hygienic than the Western ones, especially at public places. When you use an Indian-style toilet, your body won’t come in direct contact with the toilet seat, hence the chances of you contracting any faecal-borne infections will be less. If you are still skeptical about using public toilets, you can always spray a sanitiser on and around the seat of the Indian-style toilet and on the places where you deem essential.

A Bonus Tip

7. Protect your belongings.

When in a stall of a public restroom, never keep your belongings like handbag or mobile on the surface of the toilet. When you put these down on a surface, they become a carrier of the dangerous bacteria. The bacteria may spread to the place where you keep it next. So, it’s best that you avoid placing your handbag on the floor. You can hang it on the hook at the back of the door. And before leaving the restroom, wipe off the bag with a tissue paper.

We understand that public restrooms are unpleasant, but there are worse things out there. When you use a public toilet the next time, surely the ‘ick’ factor will be there. However, if you follow the above-mentioned tips carefully, you won’t have to compromise on the hygiene factor, not entirely at least!

Previous article «
Next article »
Aarohi Achwal holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a master’s degree in English Literature. While working as an intern for an English daily, she realised that she likes writing above anything else. The idea of being heard without having to speak appeals to her. She likes to write research-based articles that are informative and relevant. She has written articles on pregnancy, parenting, and relationships. And she would like to continue creating content on health and lifestyle.