Why Coronavirus Should Make You Rethink Your Bathroom EtiquetteApril 22, 2020 - Katie McCallum
Right now, we're social distancing, we're disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, we're wearing cloth masks, we're properly covering our coughs. That's because the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is primarily spread via respiratory droplets produced by someone who's infected.
But respiratory droplets may not be the only way to transmit coronavirus. Studies by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and others provide cautionary warnings that the virus may potentially be spread through other bodily fluids — including an infected person's stool.
"There's evidence that people who have COVID-19 can shed the virus in their stool," says Dr. Joshua Septimus, associate professor of clinical medicine and medical director of Houston Methodist Primary Care Group Same Day Clinics. "The virus can be found in stool throughout the course of the illness and even after a person has recovered from COVID-19 — although we're not sure how long yet."
Dr. Septimus points out that, if you have COVID-19, this means the virus can potentially spread through a fecal-oral route — meaning from your stool, to your hands and then to either surfaces or someone else through direct contact.
Proper bathroom etiquette is always important, but it's especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. And there may also be a few additional steps to consider adding to your bathroom etiquette routine during the outbreak.
A bathroom etiquette checklist
We all know that bathroom hygiene is important, but it never hurts to brush up on what it entails exactly — especially given that coronavirus can be found in an infected person's stool.
If you have COVID-19, follow this checklist to make sure you're practicing good bathroom hygiene:
- Are you closing the lid before you flush?
- After flushing, are you immediately washing your hands thoroughly (that means performing all five steps of proper hand washing)?
- Are you disinfecting the things that you touch before washing your hands, like the toilet flusher, soap dispenser and faucet handle?
"If you have or are recovering from COVID-19, it's best to disinfect any surface you touch between going to the bathroom and washing your hands — every single time," explains Dr. Septimus.
You can disinfect frequently touched bathroom surfaces using either household disinfectant or a diluted bleach solution.
And while you may take your phone with you everywhere, don't bring it into the bathroom, if possible. And definitely don't touch it before washing your hands.
"As long as someone who has COVID-19 is practicing proper bathroom hygiene, the risk of spreading the virus through fecal-oral transmission should be low," Dr. Septimus adds. "But it really is important to understand that this means more than casual hand washing and requires disinfecting commonly touched bathroom surfaces more than usual."
Concerned you may have COVID-19?
- If you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can speak to a Virtual Urgent Care provider 24/7. The provider will help you determine if testing is needed and advise you on where you should go.