Q: Can you contract an STI from a toilet seat?
A: Well… it depends on what you’re doing on the toilet seat. Sorry – couldn’t resist.
Assuming that you’re using the toilet for its intended purpose, it’s extremely unlikely that you could catch an STI from a toilet seat. The most common organisms responsible for sexually transmitted infections cannot survive long outside the human body. Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes, Trichomonas, HPV and HIV all require direct skin-to-skin or body fluid contact for transmission.
If an infected individual did happen to leave semen, vaginal secretions, blood and/or saliva on a toilet seat, the organisms would then have to be present in sufficient numbers to cause infection – again, very unlikely. But even if you did sit on the porcelain throne from Hell and even if there were enough organisms left on the seat, you would also have to have some type of open wound on your backside for them to infect you since it is practically impossible for them to penetrate intact skin.
One theoretical exception might be pubic lice or “crabs.” These critters can live outside the body for up to 24 hours on sheets, clothes, towels, etc. But they really prefer to snuggle up in warm places – and their feet are not designed to walk on smooth hard surfaces – so it is highly unlikely that they would leave the cozy environment of someone’s bits and pieces for the chilly skating rink of a toilet seat.
For more information about STD prevention, look here. And please, look before you sit!
Angie Walker, Med IV (OSU COM)
John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)