Is Using a Public Restroom Safe During the Pandemic?

Is Using a Public Restroom Safe During the Pandemic?

( – Public restrooms can be a gamble on the best of days, especially when they aren’t well maintained. But they may harbor additional, hidden dangers during the pandemic. Get the facts and understand the risks.

Confirmed Transmission Route

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has proven itself a tricky little bugger that can infect multiple regions of the body. One of them is the intestinal tract. According to a report recently published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, up to 35% of COVID-19 sufferers experience GI symptoms including diarrhea, bleeding, nausea and vomiting. Up to 10% may notice these symptoms before they develop fever or respiratory symptoms. And during all that time, the virus is present in their solid waste.

But researchers found COVID-19 patients don’t need to exhibit GI symptoms to be shedding the virus in the bathroom. This holds true even in asymptomatic patients. And if they’re using a public toilet, they may spread their germs — no matter how clean they are.

Plumes of Pathogens

Another article just released in Physics of Fluids shares even more concerning findings: Toilets create forceful plumes of aerosols, sending microscopic particles of fecal matter — along with whatever pathogens they host — flying out of the bowl. Between 40% and 60% of the particles generated in a flush are able to spill up and over the seat. And once the virus is airborne, it can stay afloat for hours by riding water droplets on whatever airflow is present.

This means even a restroom that’s been vacant for hours may harbor airborne copies of the virus. And going in with a mask might not be enough protection. Remember, we don’t have to breathe in the virus to get sick; we can catch COVID-19 if the virus comes in contact with our eyes.

Beware of Surfaces

The virus can also settle onto surfaces as well, where other people might pick it up and spread it to themselves by touching their eyes, nose or mouth. And, depending on the surface, SARS-CoV-2 can stay infectious for hours or even longer — up to 3 days on stainless steel and plastic. Be careful about touching communal surfaces, even faucet handles, which may be far germier than they look.

There’s no question about it: Public restrooms are high-risk areas right now. Avoid them completely if you can. And if you must use one, make the trip as quick as possible, try to touch as little as you can and sanitize your hands after the visit. The threat is real.

~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!

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