Getting away from it all, having someone else clean up after you,
and not having to worry about the daily grind all seem like awesome
reasons to spend a few nights in a hotel. Or maybe you travel for
business and are a regular visitor to hotels. No matter the reason you
are staying in a hotel, there are important health traps you should
know about in order to protect yourself. From ice buckets to swimming
pools to filthy carpet, there are health dangers lurking in places you might not have expected. Read on to find about these hidden health hazards.
- Ice buckets. These little gems are often overlooked for cleaning. Apparently, it is common for hotel guests to use the empty ice buckets for a vomit container,
then they are simply rinsed with water and put back on the counter top.
Housekeeping staff may glance at the bucket and think it is clean, but
in reality, it is not. These containers with remnants of vomit can
spread norovirus, among other diseases.
- Bed bugs. The prevalence of bed bugs at hotels of all caliber has become a recent concern. Bed bugs
live in mattresses, carpet, and wooden furniture and are easily
introduced into the room via guests’ luggage and clothing. They feed on
human blood and leave itchy welts. While these bugs don’t necessarily
transmit disease, they are extremely difficult to eliminate and are
easily brought home. Check your room for tale-tell signs of bed bugs
such as dark spots on the sheets or on furniture and pay a visit to
sites such as the The Bedbug Registry, which tracks bed bug infestations.
- Hot tubs. The warm, moist environment of a hot tub acts as a perfect breeding ground for a number of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
While most hotels do keep the water clean and chlorinated, the problem
comes in when the pipes themselves are not regularly cleaned, leaving a
perfect place for these infection-causing agents to thrive. Skin
problems, and sometimes, lung infections can result from spending time
in an infected hot tub.
- Buffet. Buffets
provide a convenient way to serve lots of hotel guests with fewer
servers than in a typical restaurant setting. Despite the convenience,
there are some risks inherent in leaving food sitting out. If cold food
is kept properly chilled and hot food properly warmed, the risk of
food-borne illness is reduced. However, the recommended times
for leaving warm food out include 15 minutes for vegetables and 30
minutes for meat, poultry, fish, and casserole foods. Chances are good,
especially if you are visiting the buffet during an off time, that the
food on the buffet has been sitting out longer than those
recommendations. Another risk with buffet foods is when guests who may
be ill sneeze or cough on food, leaving behind germs that can easily
infect the next person who comes in contact with that food.
- Allergens. While the rooms are cleaned frequently, there is still plenty of dust and other allergens that remain behind in the vents, behind furniture, on bedding, and throughout the room. Many hotels are beginning to offer hypoallergenic rooms and accessories such as special pillows and mattress covers, but you will likely have to ask for these special items.
- Legionnaire’s disease.
Legionnaire’s disease is an infectious disease that can lead to a
dangerous form of pneumonia. It is spread through infected water and
can be contracted through breathing in vapor from air conditioners,
showers, hot tubs, ice machines, and any other water-based machine. A recent outbreak
at a posh Miami hotel was the result of a water filtration system that
worked so well it eliminated too much of the chlorine that would have
prevented the growth of the legionella bacteria.
The carpet in hotel rooms are rarely cleaned beyond a quick vacuum and
can harbor many germs as a result of the dirt and spills that end up on
the floor. Mold,
bacteria, and fungus can grow in carpet and is just waiting for you.
Bring a pair of flip-flops or an extra pair of socks for wearing around
the hotel room to keep your feet off the dirty carpet and don’t sit on
or leave your clothes on the floor.
- Pool. Hotel pools are usually properly maintained, but if they are not, bacteria such as cryptosporidium and giardia
can survive in the water. Chlorine does not kill cryptosporidium or
giardia, both of which cause gastrointestinal disease. These bacteria
can be introduced in the water when someone suffering from diarrhea
goes for a swim and can remain in the water for several days after
introduction. Make sure the hotel where you are staying follows
recommended pool maintenance guidelines.
- Drinking glasses. There have been reports
of cleaning staff merely wiping down the drinking glasses and replacing
them on the counter for the next guest. Ask about the process of
cleaning the glasses, if you are concerned. Make sure there is a
process that includes hot, soapy water for cleaning glasses each day.
Better yet, bring your own cup when you travel.
- Meth lab. A recent trend among meth lab cooks is renting a hotel room in which to cook their illegal drugs.
The toxins that result from the cooking permeate everything in the
room, including furniture, bedding, and the ventilation system. The
only way to completely eliminate these toxins is to gut the room and
rebuild it. While staying one or two nights probably won’t risk your
health, staying for a week or two on a family vacation may bring
unwanted risks, especially to young children and pregnant women.