Is It True: That Using A Public Toilet Can Give You UTI?

Posted on May 26, 2015 in Columns, Is It True, Staff Picks

By Sanskriti Pandey

Remember how you cringed the last time you needed to pee and had to tread cross-legged into that dreaded territory of who-knows-what germs in the public toilet near you? And now you just conjured a mental picture of yourself crouching with naked buttocks hovering just above the toilet seat, trying not to touch it. Yes, I know, but you’re not alone. Most of us have gotten pretty paranoid about contracting infections and diseases off public places one time or the other, right? You’ll agree that toilets are the crown monarch of public, and a Urinary Tract Infection the king of pain-in-the-ass. So is it that true that you can contract a UTI off a public toilet? Read on.

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Of Toilet Bowls And Splashing Waters

Your urinary tract is a gang of four buddies that handle urine all day long, all your life. The kidneys, the ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder), the urethra (that carries urine out from the bladder) and the bladder itself. If certain harmful bacteria, mostly present in the human digestive system, enter any region of this urinary tract, inflammation followed by infection will generally follow. But the thing is that these UTI-rich bacteria thrive in moist temperatures and cannot survive long on the inanimate surface of a toilet seat! It’s unlikely, therefore, that a public toilet actually equates to acquiring a UTI, because that’s just germ phobic you talking to yourself. However, there are several ways an infection just might find a way around this. A type of bacterium called the Escherichia Coli or E Coli is often present even in the seemingly-clean water in the toilet bowl, and it is one of the possible perpetrators of the crime if the water in the bowl has splashed on to your privates. UTI-causing bacteria may also reach the anus, so women can groan a bit here – they are a lot more prone to UTIs than men are, courtesy a shorter urethra and a smaller distance between the anus and the urethral opening.

But unless splashing has ensued or you were using toilet paper that had touched the water in the bowl and you continued wiping your genitals with it anyway, it would be quite a task for the bacteria to enter your urethra in sufficient amounts and cause havoc later. When it comes to faeces – what pleasant thoughts we’re thinking – bacteria from faeces are thrown up in the air when the bowl is being flushed with water, but these too need to actually enter your tract to carry out their UTI mischief.

Is It Time For Your Breakup With Public Loos?

No. Don’t abandon public toilets for life, the poor things. The crux of the matter is that one needs to exercise caution when it comes to sensitive and vulnerable parts of the body. The answer to whether using a public toilet can give you a UTI is a ‘No* but conditions apply’ – solely using a public loo is not a guarantor of a UTI, provided that you take care to be hygienic! There’s a reason your mother trained you in the art of pee-pee cleaning and then washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water before proceeding to activities that don’t involve all-things-potty. When in a public toilet or even otherwise, you’re not crazy if you’re a tad scared about touching the flush handle, the seat, the toilet-paper holder (if there is one, because, Indian-style lavatories), the faucet (same), the water container or even the tap heads; it’s probably doing you good. So let hygiene be your mantra, and let soap be your champion.