Hotel Germ Safety: Staying Healthy From Check-In To Check-Out

Traveling with your family can be an exciting experience. Introducing your children to new people and places is not only fun, but educational and developmentally stimulating. While most people find vacations away from home relaxing, many parents might find it stressful to bring their children into a new environment, such as a hotel, that they had no control over cleaning and sanitizing. The following are some of the most important warning signs to look for when staying at a hotel, and tips on how to keep your family healthy from check-in to check-out!

 Bed Bugs

While bed bugs don’t pose as a serious health risk, these annoying little parasites can cause much distress and frustration. According to a 2013 survey conducted by the NPMA and the University of Kentucky, 76% of professional pest management companies surveyed consider bed bugs to be one of the most difficult pests to treat – ahead of ants, termites and even cockroaches.  It’s important to note that bed bugs are not a sign of uncleanliness. They are great travelers that can hide in clothing and luggage; and can hitch a ride from one place to another without being noticed. Bed bugs aren’t just confined to beds, however. They can burrow in sheets, blankets, couches, cushions and pillows. You definitely don’t want to chance bringing bed bugs into your home after your stay at a hotel.

What You Can Do:

As soon as you enter your hotel room, inspect it for bed bugs. As odd as this sounds, it is recommended to place your luggage in the bathtub. That is the only place you can clearly see is free of bugs; and you won’t risk bed bugs crawling into your things while you inspect the room. Remove all couch and chair cushions and pillows, inspecting the crevices of the furniture for the bugs. Then remove the pillows on the bed, pull back the sheets and lift the mattress. You should also check in between the space where the headboard meets the wall, as bed bugs can hide there during the day. If you spot any bed bugs, immediately leave the room and request another room in the hotel.

Sheets/Comforters

While it is standard for hotels to change bed sheets between guests, they don’t always change comforters. Just think of all of the things that people do in hotel beds! Those comforters should probably be washed in between every guest.

What You Can Do:

Most hotel rooms have in-room thermostats that guests can control. Set the room to a comfortable temperature and ditch the comforter. If sleeping on hotel sheets doesn’t sound appealing to you, you can always bring your own. This is especially a good idea if you or a member of your family is sensitive to different types of laundry detergent or fabric softeners.

Surfaces, Remote Controls, Lamp Switches, Kitchenware

While most counter tops get wiped down or dusted in between guests, other surfaces like remote controls, lamp switches, door handles, telephones and kitchenware rarely ever get sanitized. While many hotels are replacing old remote controls with the innovative Clean Remote (proven to harbor 99% less bacteria than regular remotes), they don’t magically sanitize themselves. Hotel staff must sanitize them between guests just like everything else.

What You Can Do:

Bring a pack of sanitizing wipes, and quickly go over all touchable surfaces and objects in the room. This will take you two minutes, and will ensure a disinfected living space for the duration of your trip. If your room has a kitchen, or kitchen appliances or dishware, it’s probably a good idea to wash them before use. There is no way of knowing when they were washed last.

Floors

Hotel floors (especially carpeted areas) usually get vacuumed between guests, but rarely ever get washed. You might let your baby crawl around on your floors at home, but you absolutely should not let him on a hotel floor. People track a ton of bacteria, dirt, animal feces, pesticides, car oil and lead dust onto their floors in their homes. Think of all of the stuff camping out in the carpet of a hotel room! (Check out One Simple Step That Can Keep Your Child Healthy for more information on the dangers that lurk in carpets.)

What You Can Do:

If your baby needs a place to crawl around, consider bringing a washable play mat with you like the  2 Red Hens Studio Toy Nanny. Also, don’t walk around your hotel room barefoot. Bring a set of slippers or thick socks for every member of your family.

Bathrooms

While one would assume that hotel bathrooms would be the cleanest area in the entire room, chances are they’re not. Counters, sinks, faucets and toilet seats are usually wiped down with a cloth, but there’s no guarantee that they are sanitized between guests. Hundreds of people use these bathrooms each year, and dangerous bacteria like E Coli most likely sit on the most used surfaces all year long.

What You Can Do:

Bring your own disposable gloves and sanitizing wipes with you during your stay. As soon as you enter the bathroom, quickly wipe down the majorly used areas: counter tops, sink handles, toilet seats and handles as well as the inside bathroom door handle. This might seem like an inconvenience at first, but at least your family can use your hotel bathroom for the duration of your trip, knowing it is disinfected.

Continental Breakfast

While free continental breakfasts are convenient for travelers on the move, they might not always be the safest option for families with young children. Most continental breakfasts will serve cereals, yogurt, milk, bagels and a variety of fruit. Some even serve eggs, pancakes, sausage and bacon. But there is no way of knowing how this food is being prepared or if it is being properly heated or chilled on the buffet. You definitely don’t want to pick up any food-born illness during your vacation.

What You Can Do:

Stick with fruits and bagels. If you want to partake in any of the other food offered, speak with the manager of the hotel, and ask them exactly how the food is being prepared in the kitchen. It’s definitely better to be safe than sorry!

Looking for some more great travel tips? Check out our WANDER section!

Sources:
www.cdc.gov
www.pestworld.org

Photo credit: The Art of Making a Baby

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Danielle

Danielle is a Pittsburgh native who has been warming her “black and gold” blood in sunny Northern California for the past 6 years. On any given day, you can find her arranging ridiculous photo shoots of her one-year-old son Graeme and cat Gizmo, or working on any one of her 27,000 writing projects. She enjoys daydreaming about becoming a famous actress and starting a handful of different businesses with her husband over glasses of wine in the evenings. Someday, she hopes to travel the country in an RV with her family… but she needs to sell that novel first. You can follow her journeys through her blog With A Red Bird On My Shoulder

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