If you’re a sexually active adult who gets frisky with several partners, you’re quite likely to catch herpes. It’s believed that the majority of adults have a form of herpes, plus the disease can still be acquired while using a condom.
The most common form of herpes is the oral variety, which can be passed along simply by kissing. One myth that also gets passed along fairly prevalent is that you can actually contract genital herpes, a worse form of herpes than oral, by sitting on an infected toilet seat.
This can lead to a fear of using public restrooms, and a compulsion to sanitize seats. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, and it’s a great idea to practice good hygiene, is this myth even true? Can you get herpes from a toilet seat?
What is Herpes Anyway?
If you’re a man that’s constantly scouring for the best areas to meet women and get lucky, you’ve almost definitely come into contact with herpes. It’s an absolute epidemic, especially in the oral form, and we aren't certain how many people have contracted it. Figures range from 48% of adults to as many as 50-80%, however, the World Health Organization estimates this figure to be closer to 67% of adults. Oral herpes physically manifests in the form of cold sores around and in the mouth, these can be unsightly and somewhat painful at times. The sores can erupt with puss, as well as become red and inflamed.
Herpes is a virus, not a bacteria, which first originated in chimps about 1.6 million years ago, and was later passed on to humans. The virus is categorized into two types, HSV-1 and HSV-2, or oral and genital respectively. The HSV-2 virus is generally contracted and transmitted during vaginal or anal sex, however, it can also be developed through contraction of the HSV-1 virus. The HSV-2 Virus is less common than the other variety, but the figure is still estimated at a hefty 13% of individuals worldwide who are believed to carry genital herpes. Having genital herpes also increases the risk of acquiring and transmitting an HIV infection.
Interestingly, the majority of HSV-1 infections actually occur during childhood, as children become infected by toys, cups, cosmetics, and other objects harboring the virus. The HSV-2 virus can also be passed along to an infant during the birthing process if the mother is infected. In short, herpes is an STD or sexually transmitted disease. Many individuals wonder, can you get herpes from a toilet? We’ll look at both HSV-1 and HSV-2 to answer that.
HSV-1 or oral herpes
Oral herpes is carried in saliva and can be passed on from kissing, as well as through oral sex performed on an infected individual. It is non-lethal and does not greatly affect an individual's quality of life. Many individuals with the condition are likely totally unaware they even have it.
Cold sores and blisters may periodically and sporadically form around and within the mouth, however, in general, oral herpes is asymptomatic. If sores do appear, you’ll generally feel tingling, itching, or burning at the site shortly before they rear their head. The frequency of breakouts can vary wildly from person to person, with wide ranges in visual severity.
As you can imagine, herpes can be very unsightly, and scare away potential dates. There are several fantastic apps for finding a hookup, but always make sure your partner is informed if you have herpes, and ask them too, in order to prevent transmission.
Can you get herpes from a toilet seat which manifests as HSV-1, no you cannot. Your mouth is highly unlikely to touch a toilet seat, and in the case it did, herpes would be the least of your concerns.
HSV-2 or genital herpes
Genital herpes is the worst of the two straws you could pull. It can be transmitted during vaginal sex, anal sex, development of HSV-1, pregnancy, and contact with sores and fluids. The sores appear around the genital regions, unlike in HSV-1, where sores develop around the mouth. Urination can be extremely uncomfortable, and result in a burning sensation as the urine flows past internal genital sores.
Individuals with HSV-2 have a heightened risk of catching HIV, approximately three times greater when they have intercourse with an infected person. This STD is most prevalent among non-Hispanic black individuals in the United States. Education and the use of a condom remain the greatest defense against contracting HSV-2.
Genital herpes can also appear completely asymptomatic, however, like HSV-1, it is entirely possible for it to be transmitted even without symptoms. Swollen lymph nodes, body aches, fevers, as well as genital and anal blisters are common symptoms of HSV-2.
Genital herpes tends to recur somewhat frequently, however, recurrences do decrease with time in relation to when it was first contracted. If genital herpes was contracted from HSV-1, recurrences are less frequent.
Can you get herpes from a toilet seat which manifests as HSV-2? While this understandably seems realistic, which is why the myth is so prolific, it is thankfully so highly unlikely that you could consider it impossible.
The treatment and prevention of herpes
Both forms of herpes are, unfortunately, permanent. We do not yet have any form of cure, however, antiviral medications can make symptoms less severe. Acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir are the most effective medications for individuals with herpes. They reduce both the severity and frequency of infections but do not cure HSV altogether.
These are generally taken daily and have the added benefit of reducing the risk of spreading to others as well. Sores are often clear without treatment, however, and many individuals with herpes forgo these medications, not that it is recommended. Anyone who realizes they have the condition should seek an expert opinion.
In terms of preventing HSV, individuals with herpes should refrain from kissing or engaging in oral sex with others, or sharing objects which may spread saliva. As both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are most contagious when sores are present, individuals with genital herpes should refrain from sex during this period.
If you’re chatting and flirting with ladies on Tinder, trying to get a hookup, remember that condoms are the best way to prevent contracting genital herpes when used consistently and correctly. Male circumcision also reduces the risk of contracting HSV-2, as well as HIV.
Can you get herpes from a toilet or other object if you sanitize it? Despite the fact that contracting herpes from a toilet is essentially impossible, sanitizing the toilet seat before use would still reduce any risk, as well as kill any bacteria which could actually be harmful.
Can You Get Herpes From a Toilet Seat?
Sores, fluids, and all sorts of infection sites can come into contact with toilet seats. It makes sense that people would be worried and ask themselves “can you catch herpes from a toilet seat?” The answer is thankfully no.
There are no documented cases of anyone getting herpes from a toilet seat. While it theoretically could occur, the odds of herpes potentially being contracted by contamination from a toilet seat are exceptionally low. You would have to come into contact with the virus while it is still alive on the toilet seat and be particularly unlucky. That begs the question, how long does herpes live on a toilet seat?
On a dry surface, the virus can only survive a few seconds but suspended in saliva or another bodily fluid, it could potentially live for a few hours. In short, can you catch herpes from a toilet seat? The odds of you coming into contact with HSV from a toilet seat are so low, it’s essentially impossible.
Can you get herpes from other objects?
While you won’t contract herpes from a toilet seat, this doesn’t mean you’re totally in the clear when it comes to catching the disease from other objects. The sharing of glasses provides plenty of time for oral herpes to spread and provides it with direct access to your mouth. Lipsticks, glosses, and chapsticks are also potential vectors for the spread of HSV-1.
Aside from toilet seats, other places are also rumored to harbor oral herpes, which can thankfully be ruled out. Towels, bedding, and swimming pools are not potential vectors of the HSV-1 virus, so don’t worry about taking your next date out for a swim if that’s up there on your list of great first-date ideas.
So, how long does herpes live on a toilet seat, towel, bed, and other objects? Not long enough to infect you! However, mouth-to-mouth objects such as drinking glasses are a risk.
Why does this myth exist?
STDs are a scary thing that we need to keep mindful of throughout life. It only makes sense that we would want to keep ourselves, our family, and our friends safe and aware of potential dangers that we believe to exist, even if no real threat is actually present.
It doesn't seem too hard to believe that somebody with herpes could use a toilet and leave the virus behind, after all, a plethora of bacteria live on toilet seats, so it doesn’t seem like a stretch of the imagination to think that a virus could too. Most people aren't even aware there is a difference between the two.
The myth is, to this day, perpetuated by those with good intentions, who simply believe this widespread and inaccurate claim. You are totally safe from herpes while using the toilet!
However, there is a more sinister reason why this myth is sometimes perpetuated. Infidelity.
It’s an incredibly convenient excuse to claim that a toilet seat gave you herpes, as opposed to admitting you got it from some man or woman that you secretly hooked up with. While this excuse could be used far more successfully in the past, before the days of the internet, it’s thankfully unlikely to work now.
No matter the reason for the widespread general knowledge of this “fact”, our ability to access information any time we see fit is, gradually, slowly killing it off.
Keeping yourself and others herpes free
The next time a friend asks you, “can you catch herpes from a toilet seat?” You’ll have the answer. What about keeping them, and yourself, safe from herpes in everyday life?
The World Health Organization has utterly stressed the importance of educating children and adults about herpes, as prevention is truly worth a pound of cure, or in this case antiviral. Condoms, as well as knowing how to search for signs of herpes, can keep you safe and free from disease. You also need to remember that it’s a bad idea to share drinking glasses, especially with those you don’t know.
Think about that the next time you go out on an incredible coffee date, don’t be too eager to trade mugs!