In theory, sitting on the toilet should be a banal experience — given how often we have to go — but if you’re worried about contracting fecal germs or worse whenever you go to the bathroom, this otherwise simple biological function can be very stressful. When someone sneezes or coughs without covering their mouth or nose, they’re essentially shooting their bacteria out into the air. The truth: There are a lot of ways to contract STDs, and there are STDs that don’t require intercourse or the exchange of fluids. Germs exist all around us, on us and inside us. In many cases, however, these precautions are unnecessary. Public bathrooms first started stocking their stalls with these flimsy, frustrating sheets shortly after a husband and wife who reasoned that toilet seats could spread infectious diseases patented their invention in the 1920s. 2.
There are lots of ways in which germs can be spread. The cutting board in a typical home has around 200 times more fecal matter on it than the average toilet seat, according to a 2014 video on the popular YouTube page AsapSCIENCE. Plus, your skin is a pretty effective block against any meandering microbes (unless of course you have a cut or open wound there, which could allow the bacteria to get in). “If you want to increase your risk of contracting HIV 100-fold, that’s what you do,” says Ross. You may inhale germs and catch something in that way. Touching a contaminated surface or object, then touching your mouth, eyes, nose or other opening in the body can also spread infection. You’d have to touch them and then touch your unwashed hands to your mouth or eyes for them to be able to infect you.
People assume the heat from the hot tub will kill germs and STDs, so they are more likely to have unprotected sex. Here are some unexpected germ hotspots. Your phone A recent study in Northern Ireland found that nearly all cell phones and office desk phones had evidence of bacterial growth and 15% of phones were growing bacteria known to cause infection. The idea that things can be “perfectly clean” is a myth — we need bacteria to live. The myth: You can put vinegar on sores to test if they’re HPV. Your carpet The average carpet harbours 200,000 bacteria per square inch, making them 4,000 times dirtier than the average toilet seat. Humans shed 1.5 million skin cells every hour which helps feed the bacteria in carpets.
“Holding a subway pole is like shaking hands with 10,000 people,” said Mason. I think what’s happened is everybody is taking what we do during colposcopy and looking for the effects of HPV and translating that into this home remedy, and that’s absolutely not true,” Ross explains. Once you touch a tap with dirty hands or food, bacteria begin to grow. Lemon and lime wedges Similarly, having fruit in your drink may not be a good idea. Plus, if you’re grasping handles with towels to avoid touching them with your bare hands and putting the tissue back in your pocket or purse after you’ve used it, you’re merely transferring the bacteria you avoiding touching in the first place to another location where you’ll touch it later. If your partner has herpes, the best way to prevent contracting it is for your partner to be on immunosuppressant therapy, a daily medication that makes them non-contagious. Tea towels A recent study revealed that 7% of kitchen towels were contaminated with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a dangerous staph bacteria.
Tea towels have also been found to contain E. coli bacteria; compared with the moderate handshake, it conferred about 10 times less. Truth: As long as you’re practicing safe sex and being up front with your partners, this is not the case. Similarly, there’s no evidence that taking public transport will make you sick. In fact, according to a 2013 survey by doctors at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, people who don’t catch the bus or tube to work are more likely to get the flu than those who do. difficile, which can cause deadly diarrhea and most commonly affects older adults, are immune to sanitizing gels. The myth: Your body will get rid of chlamydia and gonorrhea on its own.
According to Carolyn Bohach, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho, there are 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells. But don’t be grossed out, we couldn’t live without bacteria, which help us harness energy and nutrients and keep our immune systems healthy. Many of these bacteria live in our intestines but the skin is also teeming with microbial life. And you can get either STD twice. And where is this vibrant community of bacteria hanging out? Of all the sites that were tested – inside the nose, armpit, inner elbow, the webbed area between the middle and ring fingers, side of the groin, top fold of the buttocks, behind the knee, the bottom of the foot and the navel, mid-forearm, the palm of the hand and the buttock – the most populated area was the forearm, which carried a median of 44 species. The least germ-filled area was behind the ear.
Although they’re not as thorough, home tests like OraQuick can make it a pretty quick and easy process, but you should also be getting tested at the doctor once or twice a year, or get a second opinion if a home test comes back positive. Here’s what you might catch from via body fluids, air droplets or shared surfaces. A cold Cold viruses can survive on indoor surfaces for more than seven days. They survive on hands for a much shorter time; some only last for a few minutes but 40% of rhinoviruses, a common cold-causing virus, are still infectious on hands after one hour. The flu Flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for 24 hours and on tissues for around 15 minutes. Like cold viruses, infectious flu viruses survive for much shorter periods on the hands. However, flu viruses can also survive as droplets in the air for several hours.
Stomach bugs There are lots of germs that can cause a stomach bug, including bacteria such as E coli, salmonella, Clostridium difficile (C difficile) and campylobacter, and viruses such as norovirus and rotavirus. MRSA Staphylococcus bacteria are carried by around one in three people, usually inside their nose and on the surface of their armpits and buttocks. Staph bacteria are usually harmless but can cause problems – from skin infections such as boils, to more serious infections of the blood, lungs and heart – if they enter the body through a break in the skin. Herpes Herpes viruses from cold sores around the mouth can survive for four hours on plastic, three hours on cloth and two hours on the skin. If you have a cold sore, try not to touch it. If you do touch it, wash your hands. Basic hygiene and common sense is your best defence.
Wash taps, door handles, remote controls and other frequently touched spots in your home. Wash your hands before cooking, eating, using the toilet, handling garbage, blowing your nose, or coughing or sneezing into your hand. The jury is out as to the effectiveness of using antibacterial products. Last year, America’s Food and Drug Administration announced that antibacterial products are no more effective than soap and water and that a common ingredient, triclosan, could be dangerous as well as extremely harmful to the environment. There are also fears that antibacterial products have the potential to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “Harmful viruses and bacteria surround our everyday lives and can be spread easily through your hands, particularly after using the toilet, handling raw meat or travelling on public transport. With shocking research that one in five people don’t wash their hands after using the toilet, it’s worrying to see how far germs can be unknowingly transferred to other surfaces via the hands, for example to otherwise clean kitchen worktops, office desks, keyboards and phones.