Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Shuvani Sanyal, MD
It’s STD Awareness Month!
As such, we’re implementing The STI Project’s month-long myth busting series: So True, So False! Yeah, we think we’re as cool as E! Promoting awareness, education, and acceptance doesn’t always have to be super-serious.
Really, though, these myths often perpetuate big problems, because they keep people from getting tested, talking to partners, practicing safer-sex, and all around being conscientious about their sexual health. So, this is kinda serious stuff too!
For our ‘So True, So False’ series, we’re doing the research and debunking some of the common myths we hear all of the time about STDs, so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
You Can Contract an STD from a Toilet Seat
You’d be surprised how often we hear this.
I don’t care who told you this; it’s not true or scientifically plausible…
It helps to consider the biology of viral STIs such as herpes, hepatitis, and HIV; bacterial STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea; and parasitic STIs such as pubic lice and scabies.
Herpes, in particular, is commonly thought to be transmittable via surfaces and toilet seats; however, the virus itself is incredibly unstable. Immediately upon leaving the body, the virus begins to die. The slightest temperature change renders HSV (herpes simplex virus) useless, if not dead immediately and intransmissible. This is why they say herpes is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact – not surface to skin contact.
Even viruses which can remain intact on surfaces for longer durations, as in the case of hepatitis and HIV, cannot be transmitted through simple skin-to-surface contact. Both HIV and hepatitis are transmitted via the blood stream and would need a point of entry and contact with your blood to cause infection.
What about the creepy crawlers?
Parasitic STIs such as pubic lice and scabies which can be contracted through the sharing of towels or bed linens are not spread through public restrooms. Pubic lice and scabies are parasites with legs designed to latch on to fibers – hair – and to penetrate the surface of the skin. As such, they are incapable of remaining on a smooth surface for any length of time.
Makes you think twice about those carpeted toilet seats from the 70’s, doesn’t it?
But, but, my friend got Chlamydia from a toilet seat!
No, your friend did not.
The same logic applies to bacterial STIs. They are transmitted through genital fluids and fluid containing the bacteria would need to come into contact with your fluids while also having a point of entry.
For those STIs not already mentioned (along with the ones we addressed specifically), risk of transmission is based upon whether they are transmitted by genital fluids, blood, or as a result of skin-to-skin contact and is then coupled with their ability or inability to live outside of the human body and whether they have a way to enter your system (point of entries can be the mucous membranes inside the vagina, mouth, nose, or anus; and cuts, tears, rips, or abrasions).
Therefore, it’s virtually impossible to contract an STI/STD from a toilet seat.
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Have you heard this before? How did you learn about this myth and what was your opinion before reading this post? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!