30 September 2006

Stay in a hotel and catch a cold

Frequent travellers like ourselves will be depressed by this news article in the Guardian: Where the cold virus is an uninvited guest. According to the research quoted "people with colds can spread the virus to almost everything they touch, even if they stay for just one night".

Of course, it's pretty obvious that travelling exposes you to many new germs. Not to mention insect bites, food prepared in unknown circumstances, sunburn, chilly hotels in winter, high stress levels and countless other hazards. But still we do it. Hopefully the excitement and pleasure of holidaymaking will strengthen your immune system. Wrap up warm in winter (even in Italy) and beware of contaminated doorknobs.

You won't be too popular in hypochondriac Italy if you have the sneezes or a streaming nose. One of our contributors turned up to work in Italy proud of having made the effort despite a slight cold (normal and praiseworthy in workaholic Britain). Every Italian colleague spun away as fast as their swivel-chair castors would allow them, and ordered the only-slightly-invalid home. This is, after all, a country where every household has a thermometer, blood pressure monitor and a cupboard full of prescription medications.

We used to laugh at the ludicrous fear Romans had of draughts and the cold: never leave the house with wet hair! close every window on a train! always wear a scarf around your chin from October until spring! (you can go for six months without seeing a Roman neck). Only then we returned to England for winter, and saw girls out on a snowy night with bare mini-skirted legs turning blue, and minus coats, and we wondered if the Italians were really so mad. And it does have to be admitted that their life expectancy is traditionally better and they stay healthy for longer (WHO statistics for Italy and the UK).