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Reading in the toilet isn’t too unhealthy

Toilet reading is not an uncommon habit. Indeed you will find all sorts of reading material placed conveniently within bathrooms in some homes and hotels. And nowadays, most of us have digital devices that are not anywhere short of reading material. What with all the social media content, news, emails, messages and whatever else you might fancy reading?

But toilet reading has been frowned upon for ages. Some psychologists have argued that it’s a sign of an unbalanced state of the mind. Medics will no doubt emphasize on the potential exposure to ravenous bugs found in toilets. Such warnings haven’t really deterred those hooked onto toilet reading. They continue with their habits, using the solitary moments to leaf through choice material, while emptying their rear ends at the same time. But is it a habit that you should shun, for the sake of your health?

Let’s look at what science says. There is really no tangible evidence that those who read in toilets are any worse mentally than the rest of us. Yes, bathrooms are havens of all sorts of bugs. Reading material within bathrooms may facilitate the transmission of nasty intestinal bugs from one individual to another. But some studies suggest that this risk is exaggerated. One study compared the presence of bugs in kitchens and toilets. The results were rather surprising. Kitchens harbor more microbial organisms than toilets! The kitchen sink, countertops and dish sponges had more bacterial counts than toilet seats and handles, bathroom faucets and doorknobs. Makes you think again when reaching out for that cookbook to check out a fancy recipe next time you are in the kitchen!

More and more reading continues in toilets, more so with the use of digital devices. Another study suggested that 90% of mobile phone owners admitted to using their phones in toilets. The majority of them were adults, men, and younger age groups. Mobile phones have glass surfaces which can harbor lots of bugs, spread from all sorts of places by our fingers. It may be reasonable to give your phone a break from the toilets, especially public toilets where hygiene may be suspect. Nevertheless, another study suggested that mobile phones are not any worse at spreading infective conditions compared to our other possessions.

There doesn’t appear to be any real solid scientific evidence to stop toilet readers from continuing with their habit. However it makes sense to observe basic hygiene principles when using the toilet seat as a reading pedestal whilst obeying your bowel calls. Keep your bathrooms as clean as possible. Observe strict hand hygiene, and make sure everybody else who shares your bathrooms does the same. If using a digital device, make sure you disinfect its surfaces as well when you are done. That way, you can continue to enjoy your toilet reading habits without worrying too much.


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Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist. amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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