Do you squat over public toilets? Doctor issues warning over ‘potentially harmful’ habit

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The mere thought of germs lurking on the toilet seat is enough to make people squirm, but it can lead to severe paranoia in public settings. In a bid to minimise contact, both men and women resort to squatting position. This, according to one expert, could cause substantial damage to the body.

The fear of germs is something many contend with, but in severe cases, it is medically recognised as a form of social phobia.

According to various microbiologists, however, the transmission of bacteria through surface contact in public washrooms is unlikely.

What we do to avert contact, however, could cause harm.

Doctor Preethi Daniel told her.ie: “All that squatting and hovering we do to avoid touching the toilet seat, and the mad rush we are in to get out of the toilet cubicle are what can give us a urine infection.

READ MORE: Bathroom: ‘Hotspots’ harbouring germs and bacteria – how often you should be cleaning them

“By not emptying your bladder completely, in a rush or if you are squatting, you are exposing your body to potentially harmful bacteria.”

In 2020, researchers discovered that adopting the squatting position when going to the toilet changes the mechanisms of urination.

They noted that the damaging effects were cumulative, eventually leading to complications such as pelvic floor dysfunction.

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Stephanie Bobinger, an expert from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre explained at the time: “Pelvic floor dysfunction can include muscle weakness, over-activity and discoordination.

“When you hover, your hips have to hold you in midair. If you’re in a partial squat, it doesn’t allow the full excursion for urine to flow.

“The path of urine is impaired, and it’s not as open. The stream can change; that when we may develop habits to empty all the way like straining and bearing down.”

Miss Bobinger explained that the extra exerted against the pelvic floor is where that harm begins.

For these reasons, people may benefit from sitting, as opposed to hovering over toilet seats.

What’s more, WebMD says that most disease-causing organisms can survive for only a short time on the surface of any toilet seat, so the risk of contracting an infection is minimal.

The types of bacteria found in public washrooms include streptococcus, staphylococcus, and various sexually transmitted organisms.

Abigail Salyers, president of the American Society for Microbiology, said: “No one has ever acquired an STD on the toilet seat – unless they were having sex on the toilet seat.”

Doctor Daniel added: “To contract these diseases the germs would have to be directly transferred from the toilet seat to your genital tract, or through an open wound or sore on your legs or buttocks.

“You are more likely to be struck by lightning while riding a flying pig the catching a sexually transmitted disease from a public seat, so please don’t worry.”

UTIs have many clinical manifestations but the most common symptoms are a burning feeling when urinating, a sense of urgency to urinate, and increased frequency of urination.

More rarely, people will notice blood in their urine, or fever, alongside other neurological complications like confusion.

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