Doctor's Advice: Leave the Toilet Seat Up

One of the longest-running spousal debates may now be settled in favor of men and for the sake of little boys.

Leave the toilet seat up, some British doctors now say. The reason: a rising trend for heavy wooden and ornamental toilet seats to fall down onto the penises of unsuspecting (and just potty-trained) toddlers.

Dr. Joe Philip and his colleagues of Leighton Hospital, Crewe, in England detail such penis-crush injuries in the December issue of the journal BJU International. The team reports on four boys between the ages of 2 and 4 who were admitted to hospitals with injuries serious enough to require an overnight stay.

The doctors say the injuries have implications for holiday travel and at-home toilet safety for parents with male toddlers.

"As Christmas approaches many families will be visiting relatives and friends and their recently toilet-trained toddlers will be keen to show how grown-up they are by going to the toilet on their own," Philip said. "It is important that parents check out the toilet seats in advance, not to mention the ones they have in their own homes, and accompany their children if necessary."

The team found that all four toddlers had been potty trained and were using the toilet on their own when the incidents occurred. Each had lifted the toilet seat, which fell back down and crushed his penis. Three of the toddlers showed a build-up of fluid in the foreskin, but they were still able to urinate. The fourth had so-called glandular tenderness.

Luckily, the doctors say, the toddlers showed no injuries to the urethra (the tube in the penis that carries urine out) and no bleeding. All four toddlers were able to leave the hospital the next day.

To keep toddlers safe during their journey in the bathroom, the doctors suggest the following tips:

  • Parents should consider using toilet seats that fall slowly and with reduced momentum, which would reduce the risk and degree of injury.
  • Heavier toilet seats could be banned in houses with male infants.
  • Households with male infants should consider leaving the toilet seat up after use, even though it contradicts the social norm of putting it down.
  • Parents could educate their toddlers to hold the toilet seat up with one hand while urinating. During such a feat, parents should keep an eye on toddlers until the toddler can do this by himself.

"As any parent knows, toilet training can be a difficult time with any toddler," Philip said. "We are concerned that the growing trend of heavy toilet seats poses a risk not only to their health, but to their confidence." 

Live Science Staff
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