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Are wet seats dangerous?

>Q. I wish people who sprinkle on toilet seats in public bathrooms would dry them off afterward. I have urinary urgency and can't squat over the seat, so I really wish others would be more considerate.

My daughter is a doctor. She has assured me I can't catch herpes from a dry toilet seat, but it is the wet seats that worry me.

A. Health professionals insist that herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that cannot be transmitted from toilet seats. That said, we have heard from a number of people who are absolutely convinced they caught herpes from exercise equipment or a toilet seat.

Readers have suggested carrying disposable toilet-seat covers (available in most pharmacies). Another option is to use a Clorox wipe on the seat before drying it with a paper towel.


>Q. I have been a critical-care nurse for more than 30 years and recently started monitoring assisted-living facilities for the state. Most medication errors are made by their medication technicians. These employees may have completed only four hours of training. The assisted-living residents themselves often are not capable of identifying their medications because they have dementia, schizophrenia or depression.

Physicians and nurse practitioners prescribe the drugs, and some residents take 10 to 15 pills at one time in the morning. Most of us couldn't tolerate so many drugs without side effects such as upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation.

If a sedative or a psychotropic drug is added, it increases the risk of falling. Then the patient may be hospitalized with a fractured hip or head injury. There should be better monitoring of such facilities.

A. We share your concerns. Training requirements for medication techs vary from state to state. Many older people in assisted-living facilities cannot protect themselves from overmedication. Family and friends need to be vigilant to prevent the kinds of accidents you have described.


>Q. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with sensitive teeth? Anything cold is very painful. The dentist says the nerve endings are exposed.

A. Dentists usually recommend toothpastes with potassium nitrate (such as Sensodyne, Aquafresh, Colgate Sensitive or Crest Sensitivity) to desensitize teeth.

A review by the impartial Cochrane Collaboration found, however, that there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that potassium nitrate is effective (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 3). A study in Taiwan found that toothpaste containing potassium citrate reduced sensitivity reactions (Journal of Dental Sciences, December 2009); as far as we can tell, this ingredient is not available in toothpaste in the U.S.


>Q. Do you have a book with all your clever solutions for health problems? I am tired of clipping the paper because I lose the tips.

A. You may be interested in our new book from National Geographic ("The People's Pharmacy Quick and Handy Home Remedies"). It contains Q&A's for common ailments along with healing foods. Autographed copies are available online at or for $16.95 (plus $4 S&H) from: People's Pharmacy (Dept. Q&H), P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717.