Public restrooms are a great accommodation if one has a desperate urge to go to the bathroom while shopping, exercising, at the movies or any other out of the home activity. Many are kept decently clean, others are pretty repulsive. I, personally, have gotten to know many public restrooms around my neighborhood and in the cities I’ve traveled to. I am a frequent “pee-er”.
Ever since the public has become more aware of germs settling on toilet seats, door handles, etc., public restrooms seem to be dirtier than in the past. Some women now prefer standing over the toilet while peeing rather than sitting down as we’ve been taught. They have opted for not touching the toilet seat or flushing the toilet. Unless cleaned frequently throughout the day, the restrooms end up filthy and disgusting. I’ve found toilet seats covered with urine, toilets rarely flushed, and toilet paper scattered all over the floor.
“Given the choice between using a public bathroom and doing anything else, some people will always choose the latter. … the space comes with an ick factor,” says Dr. John Ross, practicing physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and certified in infectious disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added an extra burden to visiting a public restroom. They are viewed as hotbeds of infections and are being avoided in the name of safety. Nowadays out of the home trips are thought out very seriously. How many errands can I run before having to go to the bathroom? Better drink less water while I am out so I don’t have to pee before I get home. Wear my leakproof underwear while I am out just in case I have an urge to pee and a few drops leak out.
Studies have shown that public bathrooms during this pandemic are viewed as safe as any indoor space, maybe even safer. It was originally thought that the virus existed in the feces. Yet, a recent study attempting to isolate the virus from stool samples was unsuccessful. Some may worry that the aerosol spray (the toilet plume) resulting from the flush of the toilet may enter your mucus membranes and infect you. The risk is minimal since the flush is usually a one-time event and any direct plume comes from your own feces. If someone else flushes in the neighboring stall, you are protected from direct contact by the surrounding barriers. The aerosol plume is less invasive than a direct cough on your face.
There are many high touch surfaces in a restroom where the virus and other bacteria can exist. It is best to touch the least possible when you are using the bathroom, today and always.
Practice your usual sanitary routine when using a public restroom. Put on your mask before going in; do what you need to do as quickly as possible; use your foot, elbow, or a paper towel when you are touching a surface; wash your hands before exiting; and if possible, use a hand sanitizer once you are out of the bathroom. Most importantly, do not touch your face, mouth or eyes before using your hand sanitizer to ensure you are germ free.