Untouchable: Can I sit in a public toilet

GREAT CLEAN PUBLIC TOILETS , with disposable paper seats and vending machines with tampons and pads, are more common when traveling. In Russia, where for thirty rubles a strict guard will tear off twenty centimeters of toilet paper from a roll (or will not tear it off, if not asked), any public toilet is a necessity, sometimes so unpleasant that a violation of decency (and in general the law) “under a bush “Seems the lesser of evils. There are questions about the hygiene of public toilets, sometimes even in clean shopping centers, and it seems that there you can catch a lot of terrible infections. We decided to find out what is really worth fearing, what is worse than a public toilet, and what to do to get out of there with a feeling of relief, not panic.         

Germs and hands

The number of pathogenic bacteria that concentrate in public toilets is so great that it is impossible to count. It is logical that a public toilet in our perception is a breeding ground for any infection, but this is not entirely true. Naturally, the microbes in the toilets a lot, but in mostly fecal bacteria – those that are found in the gut. The main inhabitants of toilets, according to microbiologist Philippe Thierno , are E. coli (which feels great in your own intestines, but can cause Escherichiosis with severe diarrhea, especially dangerous for children, and cystitis if it manages to get into the urethra and above). streptococci and Staphylococcus aureus (which causes purulent infections if conditions are found). Other common inhabitants of toilets are salmonella and shigella (the latter causes dysentery), in some countries – the causative agents of hepatitis A. In general, it is most likely to catch an intestinal infection in the toilet, transmitted by the fecal-oral route.                                 

But contact with these microbes does not mean that a person will immediately get sick. In fact, people are permanent carriers of all these bacteria, and they are found not only in the toilet, but also in vehicles, on door handles and even on smartphones. The skin and mucous membranes work as a protective barrier, and it is quite reliable – if any bacteria could get through it, we would simply die out long ago. Of course, the concentration of pathogenic microbes in the toilet is higher than in a cafe, but this only means that additional hygiene measures are required after the toilet. You need to wash your hands thoroughly and do not grab the door handles with clean fingers (because previous visitors may have touched them with dirty ones); a good option is to treat your hands with antibacterial gel or tissues after leaving the toilet. If the skin is intact and you haven’t touched your face or lips with unwashed hands , there is little chance of getting sick.                

Sitting or standing

They laughed at Elena Malysheva for a long time when she tried to teach the country how to go to the toilet correctly – and they laughed in vain. The fact is that hanging over the toilet in a half-standing-half-sitting position is harmful and non-physiological: the intestines are bent in a certain way so that a person cannot, for example, perform a defecation while standing. Therefore, according to research, to successfully visit the toilet, you need to sit down, and quite low so that the knees rise to the chest – then defecation will require less effort . And the less stress, the less hemorrhoids – in this case, in the truest sense of the word.           

So low toilets in a public toilet are more a plus than a minus. Therefore, if you have a relatively clean public toilet in front of you – for example, in a restaurant or a shopping center – and there is a cleaning schedule on the wall, then it is better not to worry and calmly land to do your business.    

Toilet and linings

What if the fear of germs does not allow you to relax? It would seem that the disposable toilet seats that some toilets have (or can carry around) should save the day. As a last resort, these pads can be replaced with strips of toilet paper, paper towels, or napkins.      

Psychologically, it is much easier to overcome disgust in front of public places this way, but in fact, these seats do not protect from anything . William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University explained to The Huffington Post that toilet seats alone are not a means of transmitting any infection. It is much more dangerous to touch the drain button and the already mentioned door handles – and the flush mechanism also contributes to the spread of infection.          

True, toilet seat covers can help the skin. There is a rather rare syndrome – toilet dermatitis . It usually occurs in children whose parents are too addicted to cleaning products and use aggressive household chemicals at home to clean toilets – and no one can guarantee that a public toilet was not cleaned with something as harsh. Therefore, if you have delicate and sensitive skin to household chemicals, it is better to use a disposable seat.         

Button and splatter

It is better to flush after yourself by already closing the toilet lid – and if there is no lid, then it is better to try to move away and reach the drain button from afar. Scientists took the issue seriously and measured the number of pathogenic bacteria at different distances from the toilet after flushing. It turned out that dangerous microbes that cause vomiting, diarrhea and other signs of intestinal infection are thrown up ten centimeters when flushed. Naturally, after that, they do not climb back into the toilet, but fly away wherever they can .           

The question concerns not so much public toilets as home ones: if you have a combined bathroom and toothbrushes or makeup brushes are not far from the toilet, it’s time to get into the habit of closing the lid when flushing.   

As for public toilets , it is impossible to control who and how flushes after themselves in the booths, except to completely automate the process, but this is unlikely to happen everywhere in the near future. Therefore, we must remember that the toilet ” plume ” of bacteria and viruses after flushing settles on all surfaces, and this was proven back in 1975 . This means that the less we touch something inside the booth, the better.            

Placing a bag or wallet on the floor in a public toilet is much more dangerous than sitting on the toilet. Everything collects on the floor: both bacteria that scattered around the booth when flushed, and what visitors brought on their shoes (up to helminth eggs). If there are no shelves or hooks, and it is impossible to hold everything in your hands, then it is better to treat the bottom of the bag with napkins with an antiseptic – and try not to throw bags and bags on the bed at home.   

local_offerevent_note June 30, 2021

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