Can You Get Herpes From a Toilet Seat?
Short answer: No! You will not contract herpes from sitting on the toilet seat. But why should you believe us? We’re just the internet. The internet is just like… cat videos… and memes… and fake news.
Just kidding, we’re a super credible resource that is about to give you a whole slew of facts and figures on why you shouldn’t worry about herpes at all when using a public (or private) restroom. Buckle up kid, we’re going to blow your pants off.
Ever since you were little, you knew that the bathroom was a germy place. It’s one of our most basic truths. Wash your hands, don’t pick your nose, use your inside voice, and don’t sit on the toilet seat.
We are all collectively disgusted by bathrooms. And, don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying you should go lick a bathroom floor anytime soon. It’s a gross place. However, there are grosser things. In fact, a recent study found that your very own cell phone may carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. Ick!
But even though a cell phone carries more bacteria than a toilet seat, we as a society still have this general dislike of bathrooms. And that “bathroom = disgusting” idea can bring about some pretty weird ideas like, “you can get herpes from a toilet seat.”
It’s Not Super Likely
PSA: Herpes or HSV dies extremely quickly outside of the body. It is transmitted primarily through skin to skin contact.
Even the CDC states, “You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from touching objects around you such as silverware, soap, or towels.”
Studies have shown that HSV when combined with saliva or other bodily fluids, cannot survive at room temperatures for longer than 30 minutes. And the quicker those bodily fluids dry, the faster the virus dies.
Additionally, you are most susceptible through mucous membranes, such as the mouth and the genitals. So, as long as you just sit your butt cheeks on the toilet seat, like a normal human being, and don’t lick anything while you’re in there, you will be fine.
How Exactly Can You Get Herpes?
Herpes can spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex with anyone who has the disease. It can also spread by coming into contact with a herpes sore, bodily fluids (including saliva), and, sometimes, unfortunately, it can just spread through regular ol’ skin to skin contact, even if an outbreak isn’t happening.
That’s right, herpes can spread when no signs or symptoms are visibly present, and it can even spread when protection is used during sex, because, newsflash: protection doesn’t cover all exposed skin.
Genital and oral herpes are somewhat interchangeable. You can contract genital herpes after receiving oral sex from someone who has oral herpes, and vice versa, you are extremely susceptible to oral herpes when performing oral sex on someone who has genital herpes.
HSV-2 was thought to be the only herpes that would show up on the genitals. However, with the increased societal acceptance of oral sex, HSV-1 has been showing up more and more in the genital region.
Herpes is More Common Than You Think
50 percent to 80 percent of the U.S. adult population has oral herpes.
45 percent of the U.S. adult population is estimated to have genital herpes.
Yup, that’s a lot of people with herpes. And the media would have you believe that these people got herpes from cheating on a spouse, having rampant, unprotected sex, or sitting on a dirty toilet seat. But we’re here to tell you, that’s probably not the case.
Humans get herpes. It’s a super common and super contagious virus, that, unfortunately, lives in the body forever. It sounds like a dirty word, but many people are more emotionally traumatized by the diagnosis than they are physically affected. Herpes is probably one of the least life-altering STDs to get. It doesn’t cause any long-term damage, it won’t affect other organs (like your brain), and it just hangs out there until it gets lonely and wants to pop up and say hello. Yes, we just personified herpes. Sorry, not sorry.
Many who have herpes are reluctant to tell others about their condition, for fear of ridicule and being ostracized.
This lack of normalization makes it seem like herpes is this disease that “good” people are naturally safe from, but again, all you have to do is look at the numbers, and you can realize that that’s just not the case.
There are a lot of people who aren’t even aware that they have herpes, due to the fact that it can lay dormant for years, sometimes even decades.
Be Aware of the Symptoms
Here are a few common symptoms of HSV-2 and/or HSV-1:
- A burning sensation when you pee
- Difficulty peeing
- Itching sensations around the affected area
- Pain around the genitals
- Pain in or around the mouth
- Swollen glands
- Tired or achy feeling
- The obvious blisters, outbreaks, or sores
It’s important to note that HSV-1 and HSV-2 are both often asymptomatic, which means they can exhibit no symptoms at all.
What Can You Get in the Bathroom?
We bet you’re thanking your lucky stars that your sweet heiny is safe from contracting herpes in the bathroom. In fact, you might be about to take the toilet seat cover off as you’re reading this right now. But wait … *suspenseful pause*… there’s more.
There are a myriad of other viruses and bacteria lurking about in the good ol’ wiz palace. Some of these germy germs include the common cold, hepatitis A, E. coli, and in one unfortunate case, gonorrhea.
Hiding in “Plane” Sight
According to this scientific journal, an 8-year-old girl was diagnosed with gonorrhea in 2003.
The young girl and her mother had been traveling with her mother for several weeks, prior to the diagnosis. Since they were always in close proximity to one another, it was unclear how she could have contracted the sexually transmitted disease.
Doctors and family were baffled after they failed to find any evidence of sexual abuse.
Eventually, the young girl mentioned that the toilet seat on an airplane had been very dirty, and she used her bare hands to wipe it off. After the seat was “clean,” she proceeded to use the bathroom, but she did not wash her hands before doing so.
The gonorrhea-infected toilet seat germs came into direct contact with her genitals, thus she obtained the STD.
This would be considered the first documented case of someone actually contracting an STD from a bathroom.
Wash Your Hands!
Do we really need to explain this one?
Wash your hands!
It’s so easy, and it prevents disease on the reg. Even though you won’t necessarily be protecting yourself from herpes, you will be protecting yourself from countless other germs.
According to the CDC, educating people on the importance of handwashing can reduce respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21 percent and diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58 percent.
If you read our blog regularly, we’ve probably told you to get tested once or twice before, it’s kind of our thing. Well, here it goes again: Get tested!
Take control of your sexual health and know your status. Even though having herpes isn’t really that big of a deal, yeah, we said it, there are still plenty of other STDs that can progressively get worse if left untreated.
Many other STDs are asymptomatic, meaning they could show absolutely no symptoms at all, and can quietly lead to some pretty dire consequences.
So What if You Have Herpes
If you do have herpes, we’re here to tell you that it’s a-okay. And if you don’t have herpes, learn about it now because it’s a very contagious disease, and chances are, you might get it later in life.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll get it from a future partner, a current partner, or, maybe it’s lying dormant in you right now.
The good news is, if you don’t have herpes, you can revel in the fact that you probably won’t get it from a toilet seat!
The main thing that we want to reiterate here: It’s really not that big of a deal. Having herpes does not say anything about a person’s character, even if it didn’t come from a mysterious toilet seat.
Medically Reviewed by J. Frank Martin JR., MD on November 7, 2019
Author: Lauralei Like
Lauralei graduated from SHSU in 2017 with a B.A. in Mass Communication: Public Relations and Advertising. Mass Communication is the perfect term for what she loves to do: Communicate to the masses the importance of destigmatization and promoting an honest conversation surrounding sexual health. Before Lauralei joined STDcheck.com, she worked for a branding and marketing agency, but she longed to work with a company that was committed to creating a meaningful sense of community and making the world a better place; STDcheck.com turned out to be the perfect fit. Lauralei is the official STDcheck.com relationship expert and pun-master. She believes that it is her sworn duty to provide the internet with reliable, well-researched, and probably funny information when it comes to whatever she is writing about. Her writing has been featured in numerous publications, including Bustle, The Epoch Times, Romper, MedTraveler, and Healthable. When Lauralei isn’t writing, she’s playing with her pet bunnies, sewing dresses, or searching for the best new brunch spot.