Hotels and Your Health

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Q Can my hotel room give me a cold?
A Probably not, despite a well-publicized report last year that gave many the heebie-jeebies. There should be no germ threats as long as the housekeeping staff has done its job.

Last year, University of Virginia researchers reported that cold sufferers who stayed overnight in a hotel room spread their virus-ridden nasal secretions to door handles, pens, light switches, and remote controls. The study also showed that when infected mucus was dabbed onto a telephone handset, a person who then used it to make a call could pick up the germs.

Such contact isn’t necessarily enough to cause sickness. Cold viruses can survive on hard surfaces for days, but cleaning agents kill them. "Go to a hotel with good cleaning procedures," says Elaine Larson, an infection control expert at Columbia University in New York.

If dodging colds is a priority, call the hotel to ask if they clean handles, switches, remotes, and phones. In your room, don’t rub your eyes or your nose—the main entry points for viruses on your fingers—unless you’ve washed your hands first.

This article was first published in November 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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