Public Restrooms – Entering the germ zone. As an adult we can navigate the bacteria. Children however, seem to embrace it especially when it comes to dirty bathrooms. They want to touch everything. Laying on the pee covered floor. Sitting on dirty toilets. Trying to wipe themselves. Flushing toilets. Touching handles. Questionable hand washing practices. Licking stuff. Playing in the feminine disposal bins. Lets stop right there – you know the drill.
Hover or Not to Hover
So you think you are doing a good thing by using the hover method when using a public toilet. Think again. Hovering to pee may be bad for your health. It turns out that it can weaken your bladder over time. It forces your pelvic muscles to move unnaturally. Also, can also prevent you from fully releasing all of your urine, which in turn increases your risk for urinary tract infections.
Line Toilet Seat or No
Lining the seat is not a very good protector against bathroom germs. The skin on people’s butts is a perfectly adequate barrier against infection. A person’s butt and upper thighs, which recovered most the day, are “usually much cleaner than a person’s hands. Most of the problems you’ll have with germs in the bathroom won’t come from the toilet seat, but from other bathroom surfaces. Toilet seats are time and again tested and found to be much cleaner surfaces than our cell phones, office desks and restaurant menus.
Flush by Hand or Foot
Are you a hand flusher or a foot? True if you flush the toilet with your foot you avoid getting extra germs on your hands. However, those that do use their hands to flush are now subject to hand germs and foot germs! So what do you do? You can flush with your elbow I suppose. Most experts recommend flushing by hand and then washing hands thoroughly after use. But then there is the debate over the toilet plume. Toilet plume is a term for what happens when the force of flushing sprays microscopic particles of pee, poop, and whatever else is in the bowl into the air. Closing the lid can solve this problem but not all public toilets have lids. The microbiology community’s consensus is that the spray can reach around six feet away from the toilet! Kinda makes you want to flush with your foot now doesn’t it. Gross yes but harmful? The findings are inconclusive if the toilet plume can actually make a person sick or not.
Wash Hands or Antibacterial Gel
Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than regular soap and water for killing disease-causing germs, according to the CDC. Regular soap tends to be less expensive than antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers. Regular soap won’t kill healthy bacteria on the skin’s surface. Using hand sanitizers may actually lower your resistance to diseases by killing good bacteria, which helps protect against bad bacteria. Furthermore, hand sanitizers are ineffective against norovirus. Rule of thumb, do not use sanitizers if your hands are visibly dirty. Use soap and water if/when available. Make sure to soap all areas of hands including fronts and backs as well as in between fingers and under finger nails.
Paper Towels or Hand Dryers
We all thought hand dryers were more sanitary. Not true. Bathroom hand dryers blow tons of bacterial spores around. Researchers holding up test plates to hand dryer air found as many as 60 different bacterial colonies could be blown onto them during a 30-second air dry. Turns out, even though the air coming out of hand dryers is almost perfectly clean, it ends up pushing more nasty bathroom air around than a paper towel. Add the toilet plume to the mix (see above) and its nastiness all over the place. Bathroom air is grosser than other air. True that hand dryers cost less to operate and produce less waste. So I guess it is up to your personal preference and your convictions. I most certainly will think twice.
Travel Urinals & Potties
So here is another option. Use travel urinals or travel potties. We recently went on a road trip with our potty training daughter and these really came in handy. We will keep them in the car for everyday use going forward. These models can be used by kids and adults, male and female. Check em out on Amazon.com!
So are you utterly baffled? Confused? Contemplating? Do not stress. We all need a little bacteria in our lives. It is healthy. We cannot get obsessed with bathroom hygiene. We are moms, we do what we can with what we have. Lots of studies out there and in a few years they will come out with more studies contradicting everything they told us before. One thing is for certain, if there is one take away from this post, wash your hands. Wash them well. That is all.