IT'S something every girl can relate to ... the delicate art of hovering over a public toilet seat.

Desperate to avoid any contact for fear of picking up nasty germs, the thigh muscles are engaged, and put to good use.

Festival goers will be particularly aware of the grim reality of public toilets.

But should we really be that terrified of the germs? And is the leg workout really necessary?

Primrose Freestone, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Leicester, told The Sun human poo does carry "a wide range of transmissible pathogens".

Among them, she listed campylobacter, enterococcus, escherichia coli, salmonella, shigella, staphylococcus, streptococcus and yershinia bacteria.

As well as viruses such as noroviruses, rotavirus and hepatitis A and E, just to name a few.

But it turns out sitting on the toilet seat might actually be better for us

"So of course, there is always going to be an infection risk in encountering faecal matter," she wrote for The Conversation.

But just how serious is the risk when it comes to public toilets?

Public toilet.
Public toilet. Frances Klein

The good news is, Dr Freestone assures us it is "very unlikely" that you could catch one of these bugs from letting your guard down, and relaxing to sit on the toilet seat.

"Most intestinal diseases involve hand-to-mouth transfer of bacteria as  a result of faecal contamination of hands, food and surfaces," she said.

And there are two more things protecting us!

The human body comes complete with a layer of good bacteria and yeast that "functions as a highly effective protective shield".

And then there's the immune system, which Dr Freestone describes as being "ferociously good" at protecting against nasty bugs.

Dr Freestone said: "So there's no need to squat over the toilet bowl."

In fact, she warned, it could "actually cause injury or increase the risk of infection".

Women's health therapist, Brianne Grogan added: "The problem with 'hovering' over the toilet when urinating is that the muscles of your pelvic floor and pelvic girdle - your hip rotators, glutes, back and abs - are extremely tense.

"This pelvic girdle tension makes it difficult for urine to flow easily, often requiring you to push or 'bear down' slightly to make the urine come out quickly.

"Frequent pushing or bearing down to urinate can contribute to pelvic organ prolapse."

Turns out you're more likely to catch bugs like salmonella, E.coli and noroviruses from the door handle

And the stress of having to hover, ever so slightly above the toilet seat, can mean you don't empty your bladder properly.

As a result, it can increase the risk of urinary tract infections like cystitis.

So it seems, putting in the legwork to squat rather than sit is just a waste of time, and energy.

If you're still wary, Dr Freestone said it pays to always carry a packet of antiseptic wipes, to give any public loos a quick once over before you do your business.

And she added, when it comes to the bathroom, the toilet seat might be the least of your worries.


Toilet sign.
Toilet sign. Rob Williams

A 2011 study found that when the loo is flushed, microbes quickly settle over a wide area, covering the toilet lid, floor and toilet paper holder.

That's why it's so important to always wash your hands thoroughly.

That's why it's always important to shut the lid and get out of the cubicle, and sharpish.

Dr Freestone said: "And of course, not everyone washes their hands after a toilet visit.

"So it's highly likely that the main exit door handle will be contaminated.

"To avoid recontaminating your clean hands when you leave a public toilet, use your elbow, coat sleeve or a tissue to open the door."

Dr Freestone had one more word of warning ... leave your mobiles behind when it comes to a toilet stop.

This article originally appeared in The Sun and has been published here with permission.