New reports of superbugs like MRSA and C. Difficile being rife in hotel rooms could scare you away from travelling altogether. What a shame! Should you be worried? Or are there ways you can protect yourself?
The truth is that these super bugs are ubiquitous. They are on your hands right now; they are all over your smartphone, your keyboard and probably your coffee cup. They are certainly in your own bathroom, on the subway, on elevator buttons and on the doorknob at the doctor's office (along with a few more).
So what are you going to do, stay home? The trick is to both minimize your exposure and boost your immune system in order to fight off any ill-effect that they may cause. The truth is that reports like this are simply scaremongering since only immuno-suppressed, those with open wounds, very old or very young would be likely at risk. I'm going to bet that none of these folks are travelling for fun. If they are travelling for medical treatment, they are well informed of their condition and how to protect themselves.
There are simple things that anyone can do to reduce the risk:
To minimize exposure during travel:
• Carry alcohol wipes and/or hand gels with you to hotel rooms (and any other public spaces where you will be spending time)
• Do NOT use gels or wipes that contain Triclosan. This "antibacterial" has been shown to only partially kill bacteria thus contributing to the super strains
• Use alcohol gel or wipes to wipe down door knobs, remote controls and bathroom taps
• Remove the bedspread or duvet and place it in the closet or on a chair
• Request "extra blankets" from housekeeping in place of the coverlet or duvet. These are more likely to have been freshly washed that the ones that may be in your closet
• Look for hotels that double sheet the blankets for extra protection (higher end hotels place a sheet on top and bottom of any blankets that don't get washed between guests)
Tips to boost your immunity:
• General overall healthy habits like avoiding sugar (especially sugar from fruit juices and sodas) and low nutrient foods, reducing alcohol and getting enough rest will protect your immune system more than anything else
• Supplement with probiotics, zinc and Vitamin C as a matter of course
• Enjoy high zinc, low fat foods like oysters, mussels and clams
• Consume as much fruit and veg as you possibly can, especially while on the road
To keep your skin safe from MRSA:
Remember that this superbug can really only penetrate through open wounds on skin
• Wash immediately after using the gym or sports gear
• Keep all cuts, scrapes and wounds covered while you are in the gym or in hotel beds. (Bandages and/ or sleepwear)
• Seek medical attention if a cut doesn't appear to be healing within a day or two
The bottom line is that you want to practice good hygiene with a little extra attention when you are in public spaces that have high turnover. That's not so hard or scary.
Follow Theresa Albert on Twitter: www.twitter.com/theresaalbert