Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A "Healthy Hotel" Reminder

Repeating an image from the Smiles series, as I don't have all that many photos of the housekeeping staff with their carts. Ah, well.

A study was done recently which claimed that the most unsanitary thing in a hotel room was... no, nothing in the bathroom, but the light switch on the bedside lamp; followed a close second by the remote control for the TV. Why the telephone keypad and handset didn't land high on that list I'll never understand. Apparently they just picked random items to test and stuck with those.

Two years ago in the Staying Healthy In Hotels post I'd shared the suggestion of taking a small baggie with maybe a dozen folded up santitizing wipes in it, such as the ones shown here. 

As I mentioned in the post, I wipe a few things down shortly after I've loaded into the room (and gotten rid of the bedspread - something often "soiled" but very rarely washed, if ever). One of the things I wipe off is the TV remote control, but I also do other commonly touched things and surfaces. Switches, drawer pulls and door handles, especially the bathroom ones. 

Despite how it may sound I'm truly not OCD about this, but it takes less than five minutes total for a little piece of mind. Who wants to get sick on vacation?

While the findings of some folks at the University of Houston haven't undergone "peer review" they made some unsettling observations concerning both bacteria in general and separately for coliform (fecal) bacteria. Levels they found were between 2 and 10 times higher than those considered safe in a hospital setting.

Not surprisingly, the dirtiest item of all was the cleaning mop that housekeeping drags from room to room, bathroom to bathroom.  The cleaning sponges and cloths would fit in with these, too, I'd suppose. Here's the list from the study I read first:

Dirtiest hotel items
1) Cleaning mops
2) Light switches
3) TV remote controls
4) Toilet seats 
5) Bathroom sinks
6) Bed headboards
7) Curtain rods
8) Bathroom door handles

Now, I don't wipe down the bathroom, but I don't lick the counter, either. Number 8 - bathroom handles - surprised me: last year when I posted about the Norovirus aboard a cruise ship it was pretty obvious that many people don't wash their hands after using the toilet. They had a young man stationed outside the open-door entrance/exit who could see the sinks. 

Most who spoke on the topic agreed that improvements in housekeeping could make significant cuts to the bacterial counts, but odds are against that happening. It's another case of "up to you" if you want to do anything about it yourself.

So often it seems stomach problems are blamed on the local food or water - and that can certainly be the case, sometimes - but I'd say there are plenty of cases where the victim has touched some contaminated item and gotten it into themselves that way.  Again - no point in being obsessive about it, but taking some steps to remain healthy while traveling is wise, I think.

Those who wish to read the CNN story I thought fairly complete can see it here.


creating my life said...

i am surprised that curtain rods came on the list. how did they ever get contaminated?
i too was as surprised as you that bathroom door handles came so low in the list. maybe people who do a number 2(ie poo) really do wash their hands, whilst it is not really that important to wash your hands if u do a number 1(urinate, urine is sterile). which might explain why not everyone wash their hands and the door handles being so low down the list suggest that it is true that it is not that important.
perhaps it is not important how much bacteria they contain but how much bacteria is on your hands before you eat, or touching your nose.

in fact, i would say people should wash their hands before they handle food, either in preparation of it, or eating it. that would be worth putting up notices in restaurants on the menu with the admonishment 'now wash your hands before you eat'.
the sanitary towels might be more useful to wipe your hands before eating. what do u think of that suggestion?

khunbaobao said...

We're in complete agreement about washing your hands thoroughly before preparing food. In California there are notices by the sinks (wash basins) in all public toilets reminding workers of the law requiring them to wash their hands before returning to work, but obviously some don't or won't. So many people just waltz out of restrooms without washing their hands that it doesn't often phase me any more. Wouldn't want to shake hands with them, but...

Thanks for the comment. Check in again.

khunbaobao said...

Forgot to reply to your suggestion, sorry: if I've been out and about for a while before eating I stop to wash my hands first, yes. If that's not possible and I know I'll be eating something that requires actually touching it (i.e. without a utensil) I try to use a liquid hand sanitizer. Easy to carry a small one in a bag with me.