Spring break doesn’t always mean beach vacations to Florida or ski trips to Canada.
For some, these weeks mean a blessed staycation. And nothing’s wrong with that. (How many kids urinate in that hotel pool anyway? The answer is “lots.”) The entire act of traveling puts you in contact with germs you would otherwise steer clear of: airplane seats, hotel pools and beach toilets. The list goes on and on.
You’ll count your blessings you’re home safe and sound, not that your home is much cleaner (we release bacteria on just about everything we touch). According to studies, as long as we’re relatively healthy our immune systems have got our backs when it comes to most germs.
Check out our below list of vacation cleanliness facts that’ll make you feel a lot better about staying put this break.
1. Beach sand has a high chance of harboring fecal matter.
In a 2009 study by the National Epidemiological and Environmental Assessment of Recreational Water, over 27,000 participants were interviewed about their experience at the beach, including their activities in the sand and how they felt health-wise afterwards. The researchers found that playing in the sand — things like digging or being buried in it — was highly correlated with gastrointestinal illness and diarrhea, leading them to believe that beach sand is probably contaminated with fecal matter.
Sand castles just got a little less fun.
2. One in 10 U.S. beaches fails to meet water bacteria standards.
In 2014, 10% of water samples taken from U.S. coasts and lakes failed to meet the safety standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to CBS News. The water’s pollution could be due to storm run-off, chemical or trash, or even human and animal waste getting into the water.
3. Hotel bed lamps and remotes have more bacteria than you think.
It’s not just your toilet or sink you should be wary of in your hotel room. It turns out the television remote and even hotel bed lamp also contain surprisingly high levels of bacteria, according to the Scientific American. If you think you can forgo watching television for the week, keep in mind that 81% of hotel room surfaces were found to contain fecal bacteria.
4. Housekeeping’s cleaning supplies are pretty contaminated before they even reach your room.
That cart that waits in the hallway and kicks you out of your room is also holding very contaminated sponges and mops, according to Discovery News. From there, cross-contamination is more likely as the bacteria gets wheeled from room to room.
5. Recreational water illnesses are rapidly increasing.
If sitting on your couch and not by the pool makes you sad, well, it shouldn’t. According to the CDC, recreational water illnesses — diarrhea or skin and ear infections due to germs in water play areas like hot tubs or waterparks — have increased by 200% from 2004 to 2008. That’s from 3,411 cases to 10,500 cases in just four years.
6. First class seats are cleaned better than coach.
In the Wall Street Journal, Delta and United reported wiping down first class tray tables and windows between same-day flights. However, not all tray tables and windows are created equally; those in coach only get cleaned overnight. Well, then.
7. There’s no official commercial airplane cleanliness policy.
In 2014, the Wall Street Journal investigated the cleanliness of commercial airplanes. However, there isn’t even an official set of cleanliness regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration or Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Each airline sets its own respective standards.
8. 60% of airplane tray tables hold both your drink and a superbug.
So maybe airplane tray tables do eventually get wiped down, but how well? In 2007, according to CNN, a researcher from the University of Arizona found that 60% of tray tables from three major airlines tested positive for superbug Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, which kills 20,000 Americans each year.
9. Your airplane pillow and blanket is probably not new, despite the plastic wrap.
A 2007 New York Times article reported that airlines wash pillows and blankets approximately every five to 30 days. ATA Airlines, reported washing them “as needed.” Further, while a pillowcase may be changed, only visibly dirty blankets will be replaced by American Airlines. Who can nap soundly on a plane now?
10. Your coffee or tea may contain E.coli.
In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency found that about one in 10 commercial airplanes had water that tested positive for coliform, which can be an indicator for more harmful bacteria contamination, such as E. coli, according to the New York State Department of Health. There are no reports linking airplane water with passenger sickness, but that might be because tracing it accurately is too difficult. And even though most water served is bottled, the water used to make coffee and tea usually comes from the plane’s tanks.
11. Yes, the swimming pool is just a pit of bacteria.
According to a survey by the Water Quality and Health Council, one in five Americans admits to peeing in swimming pools. About 35% said they don’t heed that plastic sign and rinse off before entering the pool. As a result, NPR reports that 58% of 161 pools in Atlanta, Georgia were contaminated with E. coli, something that can be avoided by hopping in the shower before diving in.
Home sweet home, am I right?
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