Expert Opinion E. coli and other fecal-based bacteria can make you really sick, and according to Dr. Charles Gerba (a.k.a. Dr. Germ), a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, they’re not lurking only in the obvious places. The bathroom sink is a prime breeding ground, thanks to constant moisture and heat, and the dirty hands that touch the taps and spout. Those foul fingers also handle light switches and doorknobs, and only the most vigilant cleaning staff would think of tackling them.
Prescription Bring your own disinfecting wipes (by Clorox or Lysol, for example) and use them on the phone, TV remote, switches, handles, and sink. But your family’s best defense against belly gripes is regular hand-washing. On the fly, use a hand sanitizer, such as Purell; just make sure it has an alcohol content of at least 60 percent.
Expert Opinion If the last person to stay in your room was sick, he or she may have left baggage behind, says Dr. J. Owen Hendley, professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia, who co-authored a 2006 study on rhinoviruses. These germs (the cause of half of all colds) can live on hard surfaces for a day and are easily transferred from the remote, bedside lamp, or hotel pen to your fingers, then your nose or eyes.
Prescription Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. No fancy antibacterial soap needed: the regular stuff works just fine. To be extra safe, give the room a once-over with disinfecting wipes.
Expert Opinion As long as the linens are changed and the room is vacuumed, these critters typically won’t be crawling, says Deborah Altschuler, president of the National Pediculosis Association. Lice are parasites; they have little reason to leave a warm head for a cold bed. Still, they might be clinging to items that aren’t cleaned for each new guest.
Prescription Don’t snuggle up with throw pillows or bedspreads, which don’t get washed as often as the sheets. If you feel itchy, check your head immediately. Early detection is the key to preventing a family outbreak. For treatment, see headliceadvice.net.
Expert Opinion All but eradicated in the U.S. after World War II, these bloodsuckers have scurried back into every state—and into expensive and budget hotels alike, according to Louis N. Sorkin, an entomologist at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. And don’t assume beds are the only places they hang out: the bugs also creep into cracks and crevices in headboards, floorboards, carpets, picture frames, and furniture.
Prescription Before booking, check Web sites like bedbug registry.com or traveladvisor.com for hotel-infestation alerts. Upon arrival, inspect the bed (especially the mattress seams) for the insects and their blood and excrement (small red or brown dots). A flashlight will help you find these elusive pests, which, when engorged, grow to the size of an apple seed. Spot anything suspicious?Check out—before they check you out.