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The One Thing You Shouldn't Touch in Your Bathroom

Avoid COVID-19 by following this doctor’s advice.
choosing beauty products from the bathroom cabinet

Given the number of times you're washing your hands each day, you're probably spending more time in the bathroom than ever before. That's why a new study released this week was so alarming: Researchers found that flushing the toilet can spread particles of COVID-19!

"Scientists have found that in addition to clearing out whatever business you've left behind, flushing a toilet can generate a cloud of aerosol droplets that rises nearly three feet. Those droplets may linger in the air long enough to be inhaled by a shared toilet's next user, or land on surfaces in the bathroom," reports the New York Times. "This toilet plume isn't just gross. In simulations, it can carry infectious coronavirus particles that are already present in the surrounding air or recently shed in a person's stool. The research, published Tuesday in the journal Physics of Fluids, adds to growing evidence that the coronavirus can be passed not only through respiratory droplets, but through virus-laden feces, too."

A Major Risk?

The plume, which refers to the dispersion of microscopic particles when you flush, hasn't been definitively tied to any coronavirus outbreak. "We don't know that toilet plumes have been the source of any other infection," William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told Yahoo Life. "It's theoretical." Other experts have said, after hearing about the study, they don't think it poses a "major risk."

So what is the germiest thing in your bathroom? The thing that might pose a greater COVID-19 risk? Your toothbrush holder.

"In a study in 2011 on household germs, conducted by the global public health and safety organization NSF International, researchers tested 30 surfaces—six of which were in the bathroom—in 22 homes for the presence of bacteria, yeast and mold," reports Time Magazine.

"While 27% of toilet seats contained mold and yeast, 64% of toothbrush holders did. Of the toothbrush holders, 27% had coliform (an indicator of potential fecal contamination) and 14% had staph."

"The toothbrush holder often has many of the factors germs need," Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist at NSF International, told Time. "It is dark, damp and not cleaned as frequently as it should be."

How to Keep Your Toothbrush Safe

During this time of coronavirus, it's extremely important to clean your toothbrush holder as it could lead to the virus spreading. "Are you overcrowded in your home?" asks Dr. Deborah Lee, a medical writer for Dr Fox Online. "Does your whole family share one bathroom? Do you use one tooth mug to house all your toothbrushes?  COVID-19 is present in saliva, and blood. Plus, it can live outside the body for several days. People infected with COVID-19 continue viral shedding for up to two weeks after a clinical episode of infection. Do not risk your toothbrush becoming contaminated. Put each toothbrush in a separate tooth mug and wash the holder frequently." And to get through these coronavirus times at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
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