Squat or control

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Squat or control

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 | Team Viva

Squat or control

A recent online survey revealed that women resort to extreme measures to tackle the issue of unhygienic washrooms across the country, which can have severe future implications on their health. By Team Viva

For those who take clean washrooms in cities for granted, there is a shocker in store. A recent online survey asked Indian women about the risk of using public washrooms and the findings were quite disturbing. Ninety per cent of women feel that the public washrooms, be it at workplace, shopping malls or even hotels, are not clean and suitable to use in the country.

The survey report, titled Say no to dirty toilets, conducted by a women empowerment organisation and a feminine hygiene brand, covered about 20,000 women between the age group of

18-50 years across Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Chennai, Pune, Patna and Kolkata. It founded that women use alternatives to tackle the issue which can have serious future implications on health. Most of the travellers and shoppers admitted controlling urine instead of using dirty toilets, followed by peeing in semi-squat position and wiping filthy toilet seats. Holding urine for a long period can lead to severe consequences like kidney stones, weaken bladder muscles and other severe kidney disorders. Semi-squatting leads to prolonged pain in joints and pelvic muscles.

Dirty toilets not only make you cringe but can also land you in the hospital because of the severe health risks they have — gut infections, lung and skin infections, viral infections and STDs. It has been found that one of the most common bugs found in a public toilet are faecel-borne bacteria like E coli, streptococcus, staphylococcus and shigella. An infected person’s faeces can transmit infection to the surface and cause diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and dysentery. While streptococcus in public toilets can lead to contagious throat and skin infection, prolonged stay of staphylococcus on surfaces can cause pneumonia and food poisoning. Another commonly found infection in a public toilet is flu. Viruses that cause common cold do not survive for a long time but harmful viruses such as influenza and norovirus can stay for days on toilet surfaces. Although the chances are rare, you are still likely to get an STD by using an infected toilet seat.

The survey highlighted that women are not ready to compromise when it comes to feminine hygiene and safety. Women in smaller cities are aware about the grievances of UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) and are concerned about the state of public washrooms in their respective regions. Unhygienic menstruation practices and dirty washrooms are key triggers of UTIs. Around 65.2 per cent of women respondents revealed the risk of UTI is associated with contaminated public toilets.

The survey highlighted the magnitude of the issue and the grave need for innovative and affordable solutions for clean washrooms. As per the report, 26 per cent of women are willing to stand and pee by changing their conventional way of urinating which can reduce the chances of UTI significantly because of elimination of physical contact with the dirty toilet seats. It also revealed that women have a strong preconceived notion about the public toilets as 51.3 per cent consider restrooms as dirty, 40.8 per cent consider as less clean and only eight per cent feel that they are dirt-free. Respondents were well aware of all the infections caused by dirty public washrooms.

One of the most workable solutions that women healthcare start-ups around the world have been working on these days are pee cups, which are now available here too. Made from waterproof cardboard, these cups are single-use funnels, which allow women to urinate without having to squat on a dirty toilet seat and risk infection. Ideal for conditions like pregnancy, diabetes, arthritis, while travelling or trekking and also for cancer patients, who have very low immunity.

However, it is usually advised by the pee cup brands to practise using the pee funnel at home once or twice before using it while you’re on the go. Trying it out in the shower is generally ideal. It can take a little time to get used to peeing while standing up as it might result in a mess by dirtying your hands or even be directed towards your feet if not used or held properly. One also needs to be mindful of controlling one’s flow, so that one doesn’t overflow the funnel.

A cup made from medical-grade thermoplastic, infused with antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial agents, might work better than other cardboard-based cups. It also allows “self-cleansing” since it repels liquids. Measuring about six inches long and 3.75 inches wide, these cups are known to be more convenient, durable, and hassle-free. There are funnels which are also made from polypropylene, a type of plastic that can be recycled. In one of the other most-used funnels, there is a rounded edge for comfort and a loop-style handle to make it easier to hold it during use. It uses flexible, medical-grade silicone and doesn’t contain any latex or phthalate plastic.

None of them is risk-free but given the exigency, at least there is some hope for urban women professionals.

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