2017-09-13 / Health

Does flushing toilets really spread germs?

DEAR DR. ROACH: I have seen articles in several publications over the years that talk about the dangers of flushing a toilet with the seat up, and all the nasty, germy things that come floating up on droplets of water. While it’s enough to scare one, when you think about it and all the public restrooms with toilets that have no seats (let alone not knowing the last person who used it), it’s a wonder we’re not all sick! I hope this is just misinformation or overblown facts. Can you address this issue? -- J.N.

ANSWER: Mostly overblown facts, I think. A study did show that bacteria and viruses can be spread by water droplets around the area of a toilet with no lid (and presumably with the lid up). However, these germs don’t go through intact skin, which is why we aren’t all sick. The key to not getting infected is handwashing after using the restroom. However, I think keeping your toothbrush a ways away from the toilet also might be a good idea, having read through the research.

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DEAR DR. ROACH: Please tell me where I can find more information about the Mediterranean diet. — V.P.

ANSWER: The Mediterranean diet is not a single diet ; it’s a collection of several cuisines that share some important elements and which have been shown to reduce rates of heart disease and obesity. Some common features are: mostly plant-based, with small amounts of meat; high consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; low to moderate amounts of dairy products; relatively high amounts of olive oil, nuts and fish. Wine is an optional part of the diet in low to moderate amounts and with food. The American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic websites have more information about this diet.

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DEAR DR. ROACH: My primary-care doctor hasn’t been able to answer this. What are the pros and cons of having shingles vaccine if one has genital herpes and is being treated with acyclovir? I’m in my 60s. — A.A.

ANSWER: The potentially confusing issue is that genital herpes is caused by herpes simplex virus II, which is in the same family of viruses as varicella-zoster virus, the cause of shingles. However, the vaccine will have no effect on the herpes or its treatment, so you have the same recommendation as the average person, which is to get the vaccine. Anyone over 60 should have the vaccine unless there is a reason he or she can’t get it, such as having a serious immune system disease (like advanced HIV), being on medications that suppress the immune system or having recently had cancer chemotherapy.

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