Whether it’s a Baltimore boutique, a rustic resort or a Chicago chain, most hotels do their best to keep rooms clean for each guest. But, let’s face it — we’ve all had a sordid experience (or two) that we’d like to forget. Add to that filthy airplanes, unkempt public restrooms and crowded airports, and suddenly TSA pat-downs become the least of your concerns.
With more than 3 billion passengers traveling by commercial aircraft every year, public spaces create a welcoming opportunity for germs to spread through the air and on objects. How can you assure your dream vacation or business trip is void of aches, itches, sniffles and sneezes?
Here are my six tips to staying healthy while on the road, in the sky or by sea!
While healthy hydration is recommended by the CDC, you may want to pass on the ice cubes next time you’re flying the friendly skies. The EPA found in 2004 that 15 percent of the 327 aircrafts’ water systems they tested were positive for coliform. As a response, the EPA’s Aircraft Drinking Water Rule, with more stringent disinfection and inspection regulations, went into effect in October 2011.
That’s good news, but since microorganisms that cause food poisoning and gastroenteritis diseases usually are spread by contamination of food or water, try skipping the ice all together. Since caffeine is dehydrating, it goes without saying you should avoid it when traveling. The EPA states that “airline passengers with compromised immune systems or others concerned may want to request canned or bottled beverages, and avoid drinking coffee, tea and other drinks prepared with tap water.”
2. Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!
You’ve heard the horror stories and perhaps even been a victim of bed bugs — small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Freddy Krueger ain’t got nothing on the fear these small creatures can conjure up!
Bed bugs are a real problem today with so much international travel. Before reaching for a toxic remedy, heed the wise words of Benjamin Franklin: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Instead of waiting for bed bugs to hitch a ride home in your suitcase, pack a travel-size nontoxic bed bug repellent, like Bed Bug Rid. This product kills bed bugs, eggs and larvae. The EPA suggests, “The prevention and non-chemical treatment of infestations is the best way to avoid or eliminate a bed-bug problem.” Oh, and keep your suitcases off the floor and zippered when not in use. Sweet dreams!
3. Bring Your Own Pillow
Sorry to burst your bedding bubble, but hotel pillows and mattresses are rife with dead skin cells, fungi, bacteria and dust mites. Surprised? Think about it — these items are napped, sneezed, slept and drooled on by numerous guests and aren’t washed. Sure the pillow cases are, but that doesn’t remove the 16 different kinds of fungi found in the average pillow, according to a study by the University of Manchester.
Next time you travel, bring your own organic travel pillow. Why? The above-referenced study identified several thousand spores of fungus per gram of used pillow — more than a million spores per pillow — on down and synthetic varieties. Fungi aside, dust mites also pose issues for the more than 20 million Americans with a dust mite allergy, according to the AAFA. Reduce dust mites with an organic, hypoallergenic travel pillow made from renewable Kapok or one made from botanical latex, which is naturally resistant to dust mites.
4. Sanitize Safely
Since the majority of cold and flu viruses are spread by direct contact, frequent hand washing is essential. A study conducted by the University of Virginia found those infected with a cold that spent a night in a hotel room left contagious germs on 35 percent of the objects they touched. Germs can live for hours, so wiping down hotel phones, the remote control and airplane tray tables is essential. For wiping, try CleanWell Botanical Disinfecting Wipes, which kill 99.9 percent of germs botanically for safer sanitizing.
The CDC recommends washing your hands often with soap and running water, especially after coughing or sneezing. They advise alcohol-based hand gels — containing at least 60 percent alcohol — when soap is not available and hands are not visibly dirty. I advise hand sanitizers that are nontoxic since most contain synthetic fragrance, propylene glycol and parabens (read: “The Perils of Parabens“). Hand Sanz, for example, is proven to kill 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria, pneumonia, E. coli and MRSA without harsh chemicals.
5. Immunity Boost
Flu season begins as early as October and peaks around January or later. But, it’s never too early to boost your immune system to prepare for travel. You can use the power of essential oils. A study conducted at Weber State University showed the Thieves essential oil blend had a 99.96 percent success rate against airborne bacteria. Blends such as Balance are antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. Or, try Protect; it’s highly anti-infective against bacteria and viruses while also strengthening to the immune system. The company even suggests placing a drop or two on a scarf before flying for prevention.
Finally, nasal irrigation is great for sinus congestion. Use a neti pot or bulb syringe to flush out nasal passages with a saline rinse using salt and filtered water (don’t use plain tap water, as this has been linked to brain-eating amoeba deaths, as reported by CBS News in 2011).
6. Let Food Be Thy Medicine
Increase your intake of immune-boosting foods with fresh, organic fruits and greens. Organic fruit slices or veggie sticks, mixed nuts, or kale chips are great snacks you can tote along and pack in BPA-free bento-style boxes or stainless-steel containers.
Got a favorite healthy travel tip? I’d love to hear it below in the comments section.
Feature image courtesy of Spreng Ben