By David Elkind
What's the matter? Nothing. Where are you going? Out. Do you
want to talk? No. Does this sound like typical communication between you and
your teen? If so, explore these tips for starting an open and frank discussion
about drugs, sex, self-esteem, and other vital issues. David Elkind, PhD, was
The opinions expressed
herein are the guest's alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician.
If you have questions about your health, you should consult...
Color code hand and bath towels.
"This way everyone has their one color so family members don't swap towels
and viruses, " says Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory
care at Mount Sinai in New York City, and the author of The Good Doctor's
Guide to Colds and Flu. "If people are burrowing their faces in
towels, they are doing more than drying off, they are depositing germs." If
you don't want to color-code, use a waterproof magic marker on white towels, so
every family member knows which one is theirs, he suggests.
Don't share toothbrushes.
Make sure everyone has their own toothbrush by color-coding them, Schachter
says. "Don't let your toothbrush make contact with any other toothbrushes
stored in the same holder either. Germs can be passed along that way," he
says. "A good rule of thumb is to keep them at least an inch apart."
Replace your toothbrush regularly after you've had any illness such as a cold
or flu because germs can remain even after you've recovered. Here's why: When
you brush, you remove plaque and particles so toothbrushes can become
contaminated with bacteria, blood, saliva, and oral debris. This contamination
can be passed right back to you.
Always flush with the lid down.
According to Charles Gerba, PhD, a professor of microbiology at University of
Arizona in Tucson, flushing the toilet with the lid up is not wise.
"Polluted water vapor erupts out of the flushing toilet bowl and it can
take several hours for these particles to finally settle -- not to mention
where," he says. "If you have your toothbrush too close to the toilet,
you are brushing your teeth with what's in your toilet."
Wipe down high-touch surfaces.
Use disinfectant spray or wipes on faucets, toilet flushers, cupboard handles,
doorknobs, shower door handles, and any other area that you touch with your
hands, Schachter says. "These sprays or wipes kill germs on contact."
The rhinoviruses that cause colds can survive up to three hours, so cleaning
surfaces with disinfectant may help stop infections, according to the National
Institutes of Health. "Don't forget the toilet brush handle and plunger
handle," adds Paul Horowitz, MD, the medical director of Pediatric Clinics
at Legacy Health System in Portland, Ore. "These are high-touch areas that
we don't think about, let alone clean."
Set up a paper cup dispenser.
"Use a paper cup dispenser not a plastic or ceramic cup because you are
spreading enormous amounts of viral load in plastic cups that are often shared
among family members," Schachter says.