by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
Getting away for the holidays is something we all look forward to. It’s a time to kick back in a hotel, motel, or cabin and just spend time reconnecting with family and friends. The fall and winter months are commonly-referred to as “cold and flu season” but the truth is the germs are there all the time.
During this time of year, your resistance is down because you spend more time indoors and out of the sunlight. If some of the time you’re spending indoors is in a hotel, you might be at risk for developing a serious infection.
I’ve been doing some research and found some creepy facts about your hotel room you need to know about before planning your next getaway. Even if your hotel room looks clean and fresh, it could be quite dirty just below the surface. Learn what you can do to protect yourself.
The Dirtiest Spots in Your Hotel Room
When measuring the cleanliness of hotel rooms, investigators use a germ meter called an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) measuring device, which helps detect the amount of possible contamination.
Viruses and bacteria can survive on common hotel surfaces for up to 4 days. According to sweeps done on the most popular hotels, here are the 8 most contaminated spots in your hotel room:
Most guests who complain about dirty hotels complain about the beds. Even if the hotel staff launders and changes the sheets after each checkout (which they usually do), hotel bed coverings are often neglected. Do not sleep or lounge on these. Take them off the bed before using it. Also, don’t place your bags directly on the bed when you arrive. If there is any contamination on the bedspread, you’re likely to take it home with you when you leave.
Bed bugs are also a serious concern in hotels. Check the baseboards and creases of your mattress for waste, skin, and shells. If, after staying in the hotel bed for the night, you wake up with three small bites next to one another, you’ve been bitten by bedbugs.
Bedbug bites are not harmful unless they become infected so use some hydrocortisone cream on the itch so you’re not tempted to scratch. When you get home, launder all of your clothes and anything else that has touched the bed in very hot water. Also, vacuum your suitcase inside and out to prevent transferring the bugs to your home.
For added security, use a travel liner for your bed or bring your own sheets.
- Remote Controls
Just about everyone watches television in their hotel room at some point, even if they just have it on for background noise. Television remotes only get a cursory cleaning so it’s important to wipe them down with an alcohol wipe before use. Better yet; take a couple of plastic bags with you on your trip to use just for the remotes. The sensor will work through the plastic and you’ll be protected.
You might think that the toilet and shower would be the iffiest parts of your hotel bathroom. It may surprise you to learn that the faucets and counters might be more of a culprit. Though each hotel bathroom is cleaned after each guest checks out, the mops and sponges used to clean each room are often the same, which means plenty of germ cross-contamination. Use alcohol wipes to swab down the counters and faucets before spreading out your toiletries.
- Coffee Makers
Here’s something you may have never thought about while enjoying a cup of morning coffee in your hotel room: Some hotel coffee makers are use to cook methamphetamine! Even if the coffee pot in your hotel room hasn’t been used to cook a lethal drug, these small appliances are not cleaned as often or as thoroughly as they should be. You’re better off bringing a small travel coffee maker with you or going out for your morning pick-me-up.
Hotel telephones have been handled and breathed on the most and can harbor potentially-contagious bacteria for days after previous guests have checked out. Before you use your phone, sterilize it with alcohol swabs or just stick to your cell phone.
- Ice Buckets
It may seem like a nice convenience to have your own personal ice bucket in your hotel but according to investigative reports, they can be contaminated with coliform (fecal) bacteria. Since there’s no real way to clean it out without dumping out the ice, ask for a plastic bag of ice instead.
- Light Switches
Everyone has had their hands on your hotel light switches and they’re rarely cleaned. Do the job yourself with some alcohol wipes before getting comfortable.
- Hot Tubs
Ah, the hot tub. It’s so tempting to take a luxurious soak in a private Jacuzzi just a few feet from your bed. Unfortunately, not all hot tubs are properly-maintained, which means the chlorine contained therein may not kill off all germs and bacteria. You can even pick up herpes from an infected person just from dipping in a hot tub they’ve been in several days before! Parasitic infection is another risk of using a hotel hot tub.
Types of Bacteria Lurking in Your Hotel Room
Let’s take a closer look at just what you’re up against when you go on vacation:
- Aerobic Bacteria
Aerobic bacteria require oxygen in order to grow and thrive.
Here are three examples of aerobic bacteria you could be exposed to:
- Staphylococcus Species – Staph is a highly-infectious bacterium that can lead to the development of boils, impetigo, cellulitis, and toxic shock syndrome.
- Streptococcus Species – Strep is a bacterial agent responsible for the development of throat and skin infections.
- Enterobacteriaceae Species – This type of bacteria can lead to urinary and respiratory infections in immunocompromised individuals.
- Coliform Bacteria
Coliform bacterium is fecal bacteria. It is always present in the digestive tract but can lead to the development of E. coli infection. E. coli infection can cause severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, dehydration, fever, and, in severe cases, kidney failure. It is commonly picked up in ice buckets, hotel bathrooms, and hot tubs.
Pet-Friendly Hotels May Put You and Your Animals at Risk
If you’re traveling with pets, you’ll be looking for pet-friendly hotels, motels, and cabins. Just remember, hundreds of other pets have stayed in the same pace. While a pet-friendly hotel is ideal, it can actually carry with it more risks because of the diseases you can potentially catch from pets.
Before traveling with your pet, be sure his shots are completely up-to-date and he is in good health. Check your hotel room upon arrival for any potential bedbug hot spots and clean all suspect areas thoroughly before allowing your pet to roam free.
More Ways to Protect Yourself from Dirty Hotel Rooms
When you hear about someone who is immunocompromised, you may picture an individual with advanced-stage cancer or HIV. While this is true, people with serious disease are not the only ones who may fall under the immunocompromised category.
Millions of individuals are living with some kind of autoimmune condition such as allergies, eczema, psoriasis, celiac disease, crohn’s disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome. If you have one of these or a similar condition, you are more at risk for developing an illness during travel.
That’s why it’s important to boost your immune system with high-grade supplements.
For my patients, I recommend:
- Probiotics – Seventy percent of your immune system is located in your gut and if you have poor digestion, you may not have enough healthy bacteria to protect you. That’s why any patient with low immunity, autoimmune disease, or a gastrointestinal disorder should immediately invest in a high-quality probiotic supplement.
- Vitamin D3 – Eighty-five percent of my patients are deficient in vitamin D because they do not get enough of this essential nutrient from their food or environment (sunlight). Without vitamin D3, your immune system will not work properly. A high-quality vitamin D3 supplement will boost your immune system and protect you from serious disease.
- Multivitamin – Dietary supplements are essential to fill in the nutritional gaps created by the Standard American Diet. A professional-grade multivitamin and mineral is your best bet for real nutrition and protection.
A little preparation and sterilization before you get comfortable in your hotel room can give you the peace of mind you need no matter your destination!