Don’t forget: cold viruses and other infectious organisms often live for hours on inanimate objects, especially those that remain moist. If possible, try to avoid using objects like telephones, pens and pencils, and keyboards that have been used by someone with a cold. However, cold experts say that keyboards, door knobs, telephones, and other commonly touched surfaces can be rendered germ-free by wiping them with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol or by using an alcohol wipe. Also effective for cleaning potentially contaminated surfaces is a household disinfectant containing 0.1 percent phenylphenol and 68 percent alcohol (e.g. Lysol Disinfectant Spray), available in drugstores and supermarkets.

What do you do, though, about surfaces at work, in public places, or in other people’s homes? Few would feel comfortable walking around with a disinfectant spray, spritzing door knobs, handlebars, cup handles, etc. before touching them. Some use paper towels to open doors, say, in a public rest room. Others to whom it is extremely important to avoid a cold might follow a practice popular in Japan of wearing a disposable mask over the nose and mouth when out in crowded public places. It’s not exactly glamorous, but it might help to keep you healthy. For travelers and others who often use public telephones and who want to keep the risk of infection to a minimum, individually packaged alcohol wipes might be used to clean the receiver.

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