Public restrooms do not have the best reputation for cleanliness, and even ones that appear relatively clean can still make us wonder just what we might catch from being in there. With how close the toilet seat is to the genitals, it’s only natural to wonder if it’s possible to get an STD from a toilet seat.
The most common STD is herpes, but it is not possible to catch herpes, and most other STDs, from a toilet seat. Still, it is important to practice good hygiene when using a restroom.
What Is Herpes?
Herpes is a type of sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is very common and contagious.
Herpes results from a viral infection of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two forms of this virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2.
Generally, HSV-1 is the form of herpes that infects the mouth, while HSV-2 is the form of the virus that causes genital herpes. However, it’s possible to have an HSV-2 infection on the mouth by performing oral sex on someone with genital herpes. Additionally, it is possible to have an HSV-1 infection on the genitals by receiving oral sex from someone with oral herpes.
The most dangerous aspect of herpes is that many people with it have very mild or no symptoms, and thus are often unaware that they have the infection. This then increases the likelihood of them passing it on to someone else since they are not aware that they should be taking extra precautions.
Can You Catch Herpes from A Toilet Seat?
Even though a toilet seat, when sitting on it, is close to the genitals, it is not possible to contract herpes by sitting on one. This is because the herpes virus dies very quickly when outside the body.
How Can You Catch Herpes?
Herpes is a virus that passes from one person to another through close, direct, and intimate contact, and it is spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the infection.
You may contract herpes if you come into contact with:
- a herpes sore
- genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection
- saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection
- skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes
- skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes
While the sores are the most apparent sign of herpes, it is still possible to become infected by herpes even if your partner does not have a visible sore.
What Can You Catch from A Toilet Seat?
Since most organisms responsible for sexually transmitted diseases cannot survive for long outside the human body, it is unlikely to catch an STD or STI from a toilet.
However, there are two STDs that can potentially be contracted from using a toilet seat.
Trichomoniasis is an STD due to a parasite that can be picked up when in contact with moist or damp objects. This can include a toilet seat or a used towel if they come into direct contact with the genitals. However, toilet seats do not provide an ideal environment for parasites to thrive, so trichomoniasis infection in this manner is still unlikely to occur.
The other STD that may spread through a toilet seat is pubic lice, also known as crabs. This is because they can live outside the body for 24 hours. However, they prefer warm places, and they often struggle to walk on the smooth surface of a toilet seat, so becoming infected through a toilet seat is also unlikely.
Besides STDs, there are other diseases to be careful of when using a public bathroom. One of these diseases is norovirus, which is found in fecal matter and can find its way to doorknobs and faucet handles. It lasts longer on surfaces than other viruses, which is why it is something to be wary of in the public bathroom.
How To Protect Yourself in The Bathroom?
The biggest way to protect yourself when in a public bathroom is to avoid using the toilet immediately after someone else. So, if the bathroom is crowded, try to find another one.
This isn’t always possible, though, so if you have to use a crowded bathroom, take these extra precautions:
- wipe down the toilet seat
- cover the toilet seat with a toilet seat cover or toilet paper before sitting on it
- keep personal belongings off the floor
- only use dry toilet paper
- use your foot to flush the toilet
- wash your hands (properly)
What To Do If You Think You Have Herpes
Herpes is a very contagious STD, and to protect the health of your sexual partners, it is vital to receive a diagnosis from a doctor.
If you think that you have herpes, your doctor can take a sample from the sore or your blood, which will then be sent to a lab to search for the herpes virus.
Those diagnosed with herpes can begin antiviral treatment to lessen the severity and length of their outbreak. Additionally, antiviral therapy can help to reduce the chances of spreading herpes to a sexual partner.
Herpes is a lifelong condition, so it is essential to do what you can to minimize the severity of recurrences and lessen the risk of spreading it to a partner.
How Can DrHouse Help?
Those who contract herpes often experience recurrences where the virus becomes active again. For those who have already received a herpes diagnosis, DrHouse can help during these recurrences. In just 15 minutes, you can meet with one of our board-certified online doctors, who can prescribe antiviral medication to help with your symptoms.
Additionally, if you are interested in long-term suppressive therapy, your online doctor can prescribe these medications and discuss the best way to manage your herpes.
Herpes is an STD spread through close and direct contact, and it primarily affects the genitals, anus, and mouth.
The herpes virus requires direct contact to be spread from one person to another, so it cannot be transmitted through a toilet seat. There are two STDs that may be transmitted through a toilet seat, trichomoniasis and crabs, but their transmission via toilet seat is very rare.
The most common disease to contract through a public bathroom is norovirus, which is found in fecal matter. To protect yourself from this disease, clean the toilet seat before using it, use your foot to flush the toilet, and thoroughly wash your hands before leaving.
- Genital Herpes: Basic Fact Sheet. (2022). https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm
- Bardell D. (1994). Studies on the survival and inactivation of herpes simplex virus type 1 on coins. Microbios, 77(312), 161–166.
- Gupta, R., Warren, T., & Wald, A. (2007). Genital herpes. The Lancet, 370(9605), 2127-2137. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(07)61908-4
- Schumann JA, Plasner S. Trichomoniasis. [Updated 2021 Dec 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534826/
- Parasites: Pubic “Crab” Lice. (2019). https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/pubic/index.html
- Robilotti, E., Deresinski, S., & Pinsky, B. (2015). Norovirus. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 28(1), 134-164. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1128/cmr.00075-14