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Hotel Rooms and Colds

Q Can my hotel room give me a cold?

A Probably not, despite a well publicized report two years ago that gave many people the heebie-jeebies. There should be no germ threats as long as the housekeeping staff has done its job.

In 2006, University of Virginia researchers reported that sniffly 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 or dial buttons, a person who then used the phone could pick up the germs.

Such contact isn’t necessarily enough to cause sickness. Cold viruses can survive on hard surfaces for several 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 touch your eyes or nose—the main entry points for viruses on your fingers—unless you’ve washed your hands first. Whether you’re traveling or at home, frequent hand washing with soap and water is the best way to stay healthy no matter what the season.

This article was first published in May 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.