Germiest Place in a Public Restroom

It's not the toilet! The germiest place in a public restroom is the floor.

And while a Columbia University study concluded that you can't catch a disease from a toilet seat, you won't want to place your purse or diaper bag on the restroom floor, since it is swimming in a stew of germs that can include strep, staph, E-coli, coliform, rotavirus and the potentially deadly MRSA virus. If your purse picks up those germs and then you touch your purse and then your mouth, nose or eyes, you could get sick.

Even though there is often an "ick-factor" when it comes to using a toilet in a public restroom, Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona who also goes by the nickname Dr. Germ, insists the toilet is actually the cleanest part of the restroom.

How is that possible? Gerba says that because of the care we take when we're about to sit--wiping the toilet seat or using a paper cover--other parts of the restroom are more prone to bacteria. "One of the cleanest things in the bathrooms we find are the toilet seats," Gerba told CNN. "I'd put my fanny on it any time--unless it's wet; then you'd want to wipe it first."

Despite this assurance from a germ expert, many people find public restrooms disgusting--and some are downright fearful of them. To assuage some of those fears and the ick-factor do this:

  • Use the first stall; it tends to be the cleanest. The middle stall tends to have the most bacteria.

  • If the toilet doesn't flush automatically, use your foot instead of your hand to flush it.

  • You are more likely to pick up germs on your hands than on your behind. So wash your hands with hot water and soap for at least 30 seconds.

  • Make sure your children also wash their hands thoroughly. Little kids typically put their hands on the toilet seat to steady themselves, and these germs could lead to an infection once those hands touch the nose, mouth or eyes.

  • After you dry your hands, use a clean, dry paper towel on the door knob. Other people who didn't wash their hands have touched that knob, leaving it coated in bacteria.

  • Hang your purse and diaper bag. Don't ever place them on the restroom floor. In a study in which Gerba examined women's purses, he found that fully one-third of them had fecal bacteria on the bottom. If there isn't a hook in the stall, hang your purse around your neck!

  • Gerba says that as a rule, the cleanest toilets are in hospitals and the worst are in airports and airplanes.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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