How To Decide On A Mattress Cover/Encasement To Block Dust Mites And Allergens

According to a new study published in the Textile Research Journal 2009, tightly woven fabrics with a thread count above 246 and a pore size between 2 and 10 microns, blocked more than 99% of dust mite allergens and prevented penetration of 100% of dust mites.


The study,  Anti-mite Covers: Potential Criteria for Materials Used Against Dust Mites, published by:Vanna Mahakittikun, Prapakorn Ninsanit,and Teerapong Wangapai - Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand and John Joseph Boitano - Stratford, Connecticut, USA  and Chulaluk Komoltri - Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand, 

tested 53 mite proof covers claiming to be " anti-mite" from 10 different countries. The samples comprised tightly-woven ( over 265 thread count ), film/membrane coated woven, acaricidal-coated woven, non-woven, membrane-coated non woven, acaricidal ( ceramite,chitosan )-coated non-woven, plastic, and woven/non-woven combo fabrics. Three regular, cotton bed sheets ( 180 thread count ) were also tested and used as a comparison.


Keep in mind that these products tested were all claiming to be " anti-mite covers" specifically marketed to prevent dust mites and their associated allergens from infiltrating consumer bedding.


They concluded that while plastic and film/membrane fabrics performed well, because of the air permeability restrictions of these fabrics, tightly woven fabrics with an air permeability factor of between 2 and 6cm3/s/cm2 were the only fabrics to fulfill the requirements of performance and comfort.As well, tightly woven fabrics treated with acaricides fared no better than ones without acaricides. Fully 41% of the fabrics tested failed to meet the basic requirements, these included loosely woven fabrics treated with acaricides and non-woven fabrics.


The study also points out that it is not unreasonable to assume that repetitive launderings of all the various covers, other than plastic, would substantially degrade the performance over time, according to a study they cite. But, other studies cited, suggest the structural integrity of tightly woven covers was not compromised.


This study concluded that plastic and tightly woven covers block mite penetration and prevent leakage of allergens while other types of covers fail. The minimum criteria suggested is a fabric with " a pore size between 2 to 10 ┬Ám  air permeability should be greater than 2 and less than 6cm3/s/cm2; and a thread count greater than 246/in2 "


What does this mean to the average consumer ? Basically they are saying that any tightly woven cover of more than 246 threads per inch is sufficient to block dust mites and their allergens. Coatings and chemicals have no benefit over a tightly woven fabric, and while plastic blocks mites and allergens, it is not air permeable, so it will be uncomfortable. 


Finally the consumer has a baseline from which to make their decision on what kind of protection they choose and how much to pay for it. No longer will you have to pay for fancy coatings, chemicals, and false claims. What you do need, is a well constructed, high quality fabric with a thread count of more than 250. Whether you choose 100% cotton or a poly/cotton blend or just polyester, becomes a choice based on comfort and whether or not you have a sensitivity to synthetic materials. Choosing a mattress encasement, cover or travel sheet, no longer rests on the smallest pore size because any

material under 10 microns will block 99% of dust mite allergens and all mites. What you must remember is that on top of your mattress cover or encasement, you will also use a sheet. Combining the two, given that both are at least 250 thread count, your protection will be excellent.


Well ,why, you ask, do i need an encasement if my sheets are over 250 thread count ? For the same reason you should not use just a "cover". An encasement envelopes the whole mattress preventing any dust mites already there from escaping and preventing any new mites from infesting. If you use just a cover, something that you only put on top of your mattress, like a sheet, then you won't be getting the protection you could have or need.


The same criteria for encasements can be used for other protective barriers like travel sheets. The big difference between a mattress encasement and a travel sheet is, you don't sleep directly on a mattress cover, you do sleep directly on a travel sheet. So, while you may choose a mattress encasement or cover which is coarse,it will be covered by your sheets. Your choice for a travel sheet would be considerably softer. A product like an Allersac, at 400 threads per inch, provides more than enough protection but is soft and comfortable to sleep in. 


Whichever product you need, do your homework. Find a well priced encasement or travel sheet to meet your needs. If a company can't tell you thread count or pore size, if the product can't easily be washed, or if you want pure cotton and they only have synthetic, move on. Contact another company, there are plenty of manufacturers of these types of protection.



Anatomy Of A Travel Sheet Or, Do You Trust Your Hotel

 A travel sheet, for those of you who have not heard of such an item, is a light weight piece of fabric sewn together in a sleeping bag configuration. Travel sheets are used to protect against unclean bedding, usually in hostels, but also are called sleeping bag liners, as they protect the sleeping bag from bodily fluids like sweat. The materials used to make travel sheets or sleeping bag liners range from cheap thin cottons, poly cottons, polyester fleeces,  to silk and higher qualities of cotton. Silk is used primarily to make them light weight for backpackers to carry and wash easily in a sink and air dry quickly. Sheets and liners are usually closed with a velcro tab, button or snap, or tie up. Prices range from 20 dollars up to 200 dollars, depending on size and fabrication. For our discussion today we will focus on the higher end travel sheets meant for protection from everything from harsh detergent sensitivity, lice, bedbugs, allergens like animal and dust mite dander, and just plain unclean bedding in hotels. Some terms you will need to familiarize yourself with are:


Pillow Pocket: an attached sleeve or envelope to place a pillow in so the user will not contact the pillow.

Fold Over Top Sheet: a flap on the top of the travel sheet which folds over the blanket so the user does not contact the blanket.

Pore Size: the size of the space between the threads of the fabric, measured in microns.


Chemical Sensitivity: 

 Hotels have to contend with a wide range of guests along with each guest's particular human condition. Does the guest sweat at night, is the guest incontinent, are the guests having sex, does the guest drool, must I go on. Just knowing what your own bodily functions are capable of while you lie in bed is enough to fathom, let alone sleep in a bed whose last guest you never knew. 


 To combat the stains and germs associated with the hotel concept, the industry must use fairly powerful detergents, bleaches and surfactants, to provide us with those freshly scented sheets we, as the traveling public, have come to expect. Some people equate the smell of detergents or the masking scent of flowers or "Spring" with cleanliness. On the other hand, there are people who are very sensitive to these chemicals, and they are chemicals, that produce these scents and the bright white linens. If you are one of these sensitive guests, you would be well served to use a travel sheet, one with a pillow pocket to shield you from the pillow case. For chemical sensitivity, pretty much any quality travel sheet will do, unless of course you are sensitive to polyester or the dye which colors the travel sheet. In that case choose a white, cotton or silk, travel sheet. Organic, un-bleached, un-dyed fabrics are available but they are very expensive.


Critters: ( bedbugs,lice etc. ):

 While head lice are not very prevalent in hotels , they can be experienced on planes, buses, trains or anywhere you lay your head. It is a misconception that head lice are found on only dirty people, in actuality, they like clean heads and hair and don't live that long when not on a nice clean warm host. Again, a travel sheet with a pillow pocket is ideal, just slip the pocket over the headrest and sit down or climb in.


 Now bedbugs are a completely different story. With the banning of DDT in the sixties, bedbugs have made a comeback in a big way, they are now epidemic in many of our cities and towns. Bedbugs are excellent travelers and they or their eggs can survive cold, even freezing. They are, or are becoming, resistant to many of the chemicals legally used to kill them. Once your home or hotel is infested, they are extremely difficult to eradicate. Bedbugs don't transmit disease but being bitten can cause reactions from local irritation, redness and swelling to a full blown allergic episode, not to mention a bad case of the heebie jeebies. Short of using chemicals or professional pest control services, the only reliable way to kill bedbugs and their eggs is high heat for an extended period of time. Washing affected clothing or bedding in hot water, at least 60 degrees centigrade/130 fahrenheit, then drying on high heat is the best way. Some pest control companies use steam to kill the vermin but this must be done properly to ensure complete success. Just one egg will be all that's needed to re-infest. With that said, a travel sheet will help to protect against bedbugs, especially if is zippered. That way only your head is vulnerable to attack. Theoretically a bedbugs' mouth parts are long enough to penetrate fabric but highly unlikely.


Allergens: 

 Here's where we get a little technical. For the purposes of this article when we talk about allergens, we mean dust mite by-products and cat /dog dander. Dust mite by-products encompass everything from their dead bodies to their fecal excretions. Dust mites are unavoidable, they feed on the dead skin cells which fall off our bodies constantly, 80% of house dust is dead skin. I don't care how clean you are it is impossible to completely eradicate dust mites from our lives and certainly from a hotel room. The best we can hope for is to keep their numbers down to a minimum. Actions like vacuuming, providing you are using a well filtered vacuum and not just spreading the dust around, encasing mattresses and pillows in mite proof materials, replacing carpets with flooring, and using non toxic topical applications can greatly decrease the allergens present in a room.


 Most danders whether from cats or dogs or dust mites are very small, with cat dander being smallest. While dust mite allergens average around 10 microns, cat dander can be as small as 6 microns. In the " allergy industry " any barrier with a pore size of less than 10 microns is considered effective in blocking most danders. That's not to say it's allergy proof, but is the best you can get without using a material like plastic or something that won't breathe well. It is important for a travel sheet to " breathe", be able to pass some air from one side of the fabric to the other. A plastic bag does not breathe, a fabric with a 4 micron size breathes better than a plastic bag but not enough to be comfortable to sleep in, 4 microns makes a great mattress encasement but not a great travel sheet. Silk does an excellent job of filtering out allergens because it is tightly woven and has a small pore size, but if you've ever worn a silk shirt you know how warm silk can get, and silk is delicate and can't be washed in hot water or placed in a hot dryer.


 I haven't mention composite or coated fabrics. These are materials with either a coating or another layer of another material bonded to it. These layers or coatings serve to shrink pore size to very small or not at all. Some of these materials claim to be waterproof but breathable. They may be just that and be great for protective sheets for incontinence or childhood bed wetting but not for a comfortable sleep. There is a difference between sleeping on a sheet and sleeping in it. If the material does not breathe well you'll end up sweating all night long.


 The last type of travel sheet material is one that has been treated with an insecticide. These are great if you're in the Congo but not so great for Chicago. That would be overkill to say the least.


You Need: 

 A travel sheet that has these attributes-

  Pore size below 10 microns

  Pillow pocket and fold over top sheet

  Zipper not velcro, snaps or buttons.

  Breathability and comfort

  Ability to be washed in hot water and dried in hot air

  Quality, something that will stand up to repeated washings

  Affordability


Totally Gross: 

 This sums up how I feel about sharing a bed with strangers. It doesn't matter if it's a $400 per night hotel in New York, $90 a night in Roanoke, or $3000 per week cruise ship. I have experienced dubious to filthy in all of them. Cleanliness is not dependent on price or cache, some of the ritziest hotels in New York have had bedbug infestations and I have stayed in a $50 a night motel in South Carolina that was so clean I could have eaten my fried chicken off the bathroom floor. " He's paranoid ", "I've never had a problem " you say. Well that may be true, at least that you've known about. Want to get grossed out, buy a 10 dollar black light and take it with you next time you stay in a hotel, close the lights, shine the black light on the sheets, just be prepared to sleep in your car or not at all. To be honest, I don't worry about bedbugs or getting sick from the bedspread that's only washed a few times a year, after Billy Bob and Bobby Sue consummated their marriage on it, or the pillow that the fat guy with sleep apnea was drooling on. I use a travel sheet just because the thought of not using one is just GROSS !







KISS-5 Surefire Money Saving Travel What Not To Do's

Over time hopefully we accumulate enough life experience to avoid certain things which are detrimental to us. For travelers, this is important , not only for the enjoyment of each trip, but for the ability to afford to travel. It's as easy as K-I-S-S , keep it simple stupid.


Everyone of us that loves to travel have made, at one time or another, a mistake, which has caused us to make that all important mental note, " I will never do that again ! "


Here is the accumulated wisdom I have garnered when it comes to saving money so I can enjoy my vacations with out my subconscious yelling at me.


1) DON"T BE LAZY- I DIDN'T KNOW THE HOTEL WAS NEXT TO THE GARBAGE DUMP !


    If you are reading this, then you are most likely on the internet. The internet is your friend. Do your research.  Google, Yahoo Dogpile or whatever search engine you like, the destinations, modes of transportation, points of interest and accommodations you have in mind. There are so many sites and blogs geared to providing information and reviews, where ever you want to go, someone has been there and is willing to tell you about it, how much it costs and what to avoid. The more opinions you get, the more of a complete and accurate picture you will have to base your decisions on.


2) BOOK IT YOURSELF- WHY DID HE PAY HALF OF WHAT I DID ?


     Again, if you are reading this then I guess you didn't get a million dollar bonus this quarter. Why would you pay someone to do something which you probably can do better yourself. For instance, you have found the hotel you want to stay at, you have done the research on at least 5 travel sites and found the cheapest rate, you have searched for any coupons applicable to this hotel, now it's as easy as calling the hotel and asking for the best rate. Usually the online rate at the corporate site is the best but sometimes a travel site will have a better rate. Quote this better rate to the hotel and ask for the same, most of the time they will give it to you.


3) TRANSPORTATION- AIRLINES ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND !


     If you can drive, drive.Having your own car allows you to be on your own timetable, visit what you want, when you want. If driving is not an option, whether it's cross continent or overseas, then again, don't be lazy. Find the best rate but, if it's too good to be true it usually is. Like flying into a secondary airport, will transportation to the city negate the savings ? How much do they charge for checked luggage. Cancellation rules, what are they. Remember this, airlines are there to make a profit and since most of them are so unprofitable, they will try anything, read the fine print ! Trains are a great way to travel especially in countries that value their rail networks. Most rail networks have passes available to save money on multiple trips.


4) PACKING- DO I REALLY NEED 15 T-SHIRTS ?


    Pack efficiently but pack what you need. Don't assume you can purchase what you need where you are going, it's alway cheaper and easier ti buy your supplies at home. Medications, over the counter like sunscreen and anti bacterial lotions to prescriptions. Clothes, from bathing suites to gloves. Money, get yours at home from your bank not the machine in the airport, and last but not least, a travel sheet, nothing will ruin a vacation faster than a crummy bed, with a travel sheet, no worries.


5) FOOD- ARE THOSE SCORPIONS EDIBLE ?


    Sampling the local fare is a large part of the travel experience but use your noggin. Just because Mr Bourdain ate it, doesn't mean you can. Street food is great just be sure to eat what a lot of others are eating. If locals eat there, then it's probably good. Search the web for highly recommended restaurants where you are going, food blogs are a great way to do this, nothing angers a food blogger more than a crummy restaurant, and , number one food rule ,don't eat in the hotel ! It's expensive and most of the time the food sucks.


So, there you have it, the accumulated wealth of my traveling acumen. You don't have to run a ponzi scheme to afford to travel, just KISS.


5 Tips For A Healthy Cruise

So, you're going on a cruise. That wonderful all-in travel experience which has become so popular lately. Just hop on the ship, no worries about accommodation, food, tours, entertainment and fun. Hold on there newbie, there are a few things you'll need to know before the fun begins.


Many a cruiser will tell of stories about colds, stomach flu, sunburns and cuts and bruises. Anytime you pack a few thousand human beings into a small space, even though your ship might be huge, there is always the chance of communicable illnesses. How many horror stories have surfaced in the news about ship borne viruses and bacterial infections, we've all heard of at least one. Well here are a five tips on making your cruise the most enjoyable experience possible.


1) Anti bacterial hand sanitizing liquids and lotions  are your friend. Buy a travel pack of 6 or more small, i mean those tiny plastic travel versions, and carry one on you where ever you go, even the pool or beach. Just pop it in you bag or purse or pocket. Use it, they work, why do you think hospitals use them. Make sure your kids use them too or apply to your kids especially before meals.


2) Think about that hamburger or chicken salad sandwich you're about to put in your mouth. Has it come from an open food bar, the all you eat can type. Were there sneeze guards, was the food chilled enough or hot enough,where the serving staff wearing gloves. Dining on board is usually not the problem, it's that poolside buffet that causes the stomach aches. Slow down, relax, the food will be there. Overeating especially foods you normally don't eat, is a big problem on cruise ships. Eat something, then wait 15 minutes, if you still want that shrimp salad, take half a serving.


3) Don't eat the street food when you get off the ship. If you want to eat something when on a day trip, find a restaurant with lots of people, locals if possible. Stay away from any food that has to be washed , like fruit, unless the port you are in is known to have drinkable water. No matter where you are, now is not the time to experiment with the local specialities. If your in port for a few days , seek out a reputable restaurant to go to to taste the local fare.


4) Bring a few bandaids along, not a whole box, just a few just in case. If you do scratch or cut yourself, apply a bandaid to lessen the chance of infection and have it cleaned well back on board. If the cut occurs on board, wash it well and apply some anti bacterial creme. Many a small cut has turned nasty, especially in the tropics.


5) If you're sleeping off the ship at all, or even if you've booked that cheapie getaway on an older ship or secondary cruise line to save a buck, you would be well served to invest in a travel sheet, like an Allersac. You never know what the bedding will be like and there is nothing that will ruin a trip like unclean bedding and an Allersac can be used on planes, trains  or bus seats. You might not need one , but if you do...


Hundreds of thousands of people every year travel by cruise ship, only a small percentage get sick. Have a great trip by planning well and taking a few, but important precautions. Happy cruising.






Bedbugs ? They Don't Scare Me ! -5 Tips to Avoid Them While Traveling

Lately, we have been hearing a lot about these nasty little bloodsuckers, Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug, and it's tropical cousin, Cimex hemipterus. These flattened, oval-shaped, reddish-brown mini vampires have been making the news more frequently in the last few years and have become public enemy number one in the eyes of public health officials recently.


Prolific little suckers, a female bedbug can lay as many as 12 eggs a day, which hatch between 6 and 17 days later. The nymphs will be equipped to feed immediately and will mature in anywhere between 21 and 120 days , depending on temperature. Bedbugs can live up to 1.5 years ! They are nocturnal, so you won't see them during the day.


Contrary to popular belief, bedbug infestations are not caused by unsanitary conditions. Bedbugs are spread physically, meaning they crawl into some luggage or a mattress or clothing and hitch a ride to their next home, where they proceed to multiply if conditions are good. If they can't find a blood meal, they can survive up to a year without feeding.


Once infested, a home or hotel room is very difficult to rid of these pests. They can hide almost anywhere, mattresses, cracks in walls, behind baseboards, under loose wallpaper, behind paintings, drapery,or in furniture. The most common pesticides used to kill bedbugs are becoming ineffectual and the other pesticides we used to use, like DDT, are outlawed. 


Freezing is commonly mentioned, as in, " put your pillow in the freezer " but this will not kill all the eggs and you only need one to survive to re-infest. Heat is the best way to obliterate these buggers, whether it's a hot water wash and a hot air dry for clothing, or steam cleaning for furniture. The only problem with steam is, it doesn't penetrate far enough when it comes to mattresses and upholstered furniture. Most good pest control companies will use a multi-pronged approach to exterminate bedbugs. This can include pesticides, steam, vacuuming, and sealing entry points.


My kill technique of choice is diatomaceous earth. This is a white powder made of the exoskeletons of diatoms, tiny sea creatures. When a bedbug crawls through this powder, the microscopic, sharp particles, which the powder is made up of, will scratch the waxy coating of the exoskeleton of the bedbug, off, causing it to dehydrate and die. Only " food grade " diatomaceous earth can be used, otherwise your just endangering yourself, family and  pets.


" So, what about traveling " you say. Bedbugs present unique problems for the average traveler. First , you have to determine if your hotel room has bedbugs. Obviously you aren't going to ransack the room checking every little nook and cranny, but there are simple methods to protect yourself. Pull back a corner of the bedding, nearest the headboard, right down to the mattress. Check for rust colored spots or actual bedbugs on the mattress and in the creases and seams at the edge of the mattress. Lift the mattress up a bit and check under it. If there is a headboard, check behind it and under it near the floor or carpet. Now check the baseboards near the bed, if there are tiny spaces between the baseboard and wall, check those too. The more areas around the bed that you inspect, the more certain you will be that your room is bedbug free.


Just because you inspect, doesn't mean there are no bedbugs, it just means you haven't found them or the room is not infested. Even after I make my decision to stay in a specific room, I still take other precautions. Here are my top 5 tips:


1) ALWAYS inspect the bed, mattress and headboard.


2) Pack a travel sheet like an Allersac, if you are unsure about the cleanliness of your room or you can't change rooms or for whatever reason, a travel sheet will help to protect and give some peace of mind. You may not need it but if you do.....


3) NEVER put your luggage on any soft surface like the bed, luggage racks or the desk are the best places to put luggage. Bedbugs are great travelers, they will get into your stuff and hitch a ride to your home.


4) Don't just throw your clothing anywhere, especially dirty clothes. People tend to just leave worn clothes on a chair or corner of the room until they re-pack or clean up. Bring or use the dirty laundry bags sometimes supplied in rooms and put your used clothing in one.


5) When you get back home, don't just leave your luggage and clothing anywhere. Immediately inspect and wash ALL your clothes and inspect your luggage. If you can ,if it's cold outside, leave your luggage outside for a night or in the garage, this can help get rid of any unwanted live guests.




How To Spot A Dirty Hotel Room, Before It's Too Late

After a long drive, or a long flight, the last thing you need is a dirty hotel room. Changing rooms after you unpack is inconvenient,to say the least, and doesn't mean you'll get a better or cleaner room. The allergens in your hotel room will dictate how restful and healthy your stay will be. Had there been a cat in the room, how bad are the levels of dust mite allergens, what kind of detergents or bleaches does the hotel use to launder the bedding and towels. Here are some tips which have worked well for me:


-If you're checking into a hotel/motel, especially later in the day or at night, and the desk clerk looks messy or tired, this is your first clue. To me it means the management doesn't have high standards or doesn't care about it's employees. If employees are not up to par, do you think the room will be?


- Before actually registering , check out the elevator. Is it clean, does it work well. If management can't keep an elevator in good condition, the rooms can't be much better.


- Check out the nearest ice machine, is it clean, does it have ice and is there a smell coming from the machine.


- If there is a public bathroom near the front desk and it's dirty, your room can't be much better.


 Okay, so now you're satisfied with any of these tips, so you register. You arrive at your room, but before you unpack anything, inspect the bathroom and the bed.


 Bathroom cleanliness tips: Just because it looks clean, does not mean it is clean. Obviously you can't send bacterial cultures out to a lab for analysis, but you can do a few things to mitigate the filth factor.


- If there are actual "glass" drinking glasses in the room, inspect  them. If they smell of detergent or have obvious streaks, don't use them. Personally, i won't use any glasses in a hotel room unless they are pre sealed disposables.


- This is quite obvious, check for hairs and residues on the floor next to the toilet and in the sinks and tubs/shower stalls.


- Pull down a corner or two of the bedspread and blankets, right down to the mattress. Inspect the mattress, especially at the seams, looking for signs of bedbugs. You are looking for either the actual bedbugs, which are usually large enough to see, or, any small smears of dark brown stains, which would be the fecal excretions of the bedbugs .Do the same for the headboard and area at the head of the bed near the baseboards and carpet. Needless to say, if you find ANY evidence of bedbugs, leave immediately. I have a few friends who thought I was paranoid about bedbugs, until they were bitten. Since DDT was outlawed, bedbugs have become epidemic in the hospitality industry. Bedbugs don't carry or pass on diseases, but seriously, does that really matter? By the way, bedbugs are not confined to " cheap " hotels. Even the ritziest establishments experience bedbug infestation at one time or another.


-Be careful where you place your luggage. Bedbugs are excellent travelers so put your luggage on a metal luggage rack or hard surface, not on the bed or sofa.  If you are bitten, red welts are the evidence, wash everything in HOT water , cold will not kill the eggs or all bedbugs.


-Did you know, 1 in 5 children wet the bed, 1 in 3 adults are allergic to dust mites ( actually the allergy is to a protein in dust mite feces ), 1 in 13 adults suffers from incontinence.  Inspect the sheets for hairs and stains and, yes, smell them and the pillows. Your nose will tell you if they have been changed. Don't be naive, if you think every chambermaid in every hotel changes every bed, every time.... 


 Well, now you are satisfied with the room, here are some simple " must do's " 


-Strip off the bedspread and put it away. Hotel bedspreads are not cleaned very often and are universally filthy.


- Wipe down the TV remote with a damp cloth or antibacterial wipe or even a diaper wipe. Studies have shown the remote to be the filthiest thing in a hotel room.


-Don't let your kids, or yourself sit on any surface naked,


 Let's face it, nobody dies from hotel room exposure. but, ever wonder why you got that cold when you went on vacation or why little Johnny got the stomach bug while on vacation. You won't get an infection from that filthy bedspread unless you have an open wound or cut, but why take the chance. 


 Products like an Allersac travel sheet will help to mitigate the exposure to unclean bedding and allergens, a can of household disinfectant spray, and some anti bacterial wipes can be a great inexpensive investment to insure your peace of mind. 

How to Protect Your Kid At Summer Camp Or Hear No Whining

After years of sending my kids to camp and listening to their complaints like, "the sleeping bag is too hot " or " the pillow smells" I have discovered the perfect solution, a travel sack or travel sheet.


This nifty little item is like a sleeping bag but made of a much lighter cotton or silk. The better ones have a pocket or sleeve to put the pillow in so your offspring will not have to touch the pillow as well as a fold over top sheet to shield their sensitive skin from the itchy blankets.


I am kidding a bit, but in all seriousness, this is a great product for a myriad of reasons. One, if your child uses a sleeping bag every night, a travel sheet or sleeping bag liner will protect the bag itself. Instead of washing the whole sleeping bag, just the liner gets washed. Two, a travel sheet will protect your child too, camp bedding, if you remember that far back, is notoriously gross,. Old mattresses are perfect breeding grounds for dust mites and molds and even the camp laundry may use too much bleach, causing skin rashes. The pillows can't be any better and probably are much worse. To protect your child from allergens, like dust mites, and strong cleaning agents, silk or higher quality cotton will do the job. Synthetics and cheap cottons will not perform well or may even add to their discomfort.


Travel sheets or sacks, come in many different shapes, sizes and materials. Obviously, the most important aspect of a travel sheet is it's ability to be washed. Most travel sheets are made of silk which is easily hand washed or machine washed on gentle cycle in cool water, but silk cannot be put in a dryer, and although it hang dries quickly, only older campers should probably use silk.One other problem with silk is it tends to be warm, not great in the heat of the summer. Some of the more popular brands are:

http://www.designsalt.com, http://www.seatosummit.com/, and http://www.dreamsack.com/store/


Sleeping bag liners are usually made of a thin cotton and most don't have a pillow pocket. These liners are not washable in hot water and will shrink up to nothing if put in a dryer. I don't recommend the cheapest liners because they will not last the summer let alone be usable for the next year. Beware of travel sheets that only have a top opening, these are difficult to enter and exit. A side opening is easiest. 


There are a few manufacturers making synthetic fleece or poly/cotton blends. Polyester fleece is not recommended as it will be too hot and not breath well but a  poly/cotton blend is a good choice for affordability and low maintenance, just make sure the ratio of polyester to cotton is around 50/50 so the sheet will breathe well.


Prices for travel sheets, sacks or liners range from $20.00 to $200.00 with most single sizes ( they also come in two person sizes ) in the 20-60 dollar range. As with all things in life, you usually get what you pay for, so avoid the low end if you want to use this product more than a few times.


There are a few companies who produce 100% cotton travel sheets which are designed to be washed in hot water. One product out of the U.K., the Dreambag available at http://www.allergybuyersclubshopping.com/cf-be-dreambag-sleepsack.html is high quality but is expensive and can't be dried on a high heat setting. The other company, 

http://allersac.com/  which makes a 100% cotton travel sheet, is able to be washed in hot water and dried in a drier on high heat. At around 50 bucks, the http://allersac.com/ is probably the best bet as it is made to withstand repeat washings and is made of 400 thread count material just like a high quality set of sheets you would use at home.


Which ever brand you decide on, remember , pillow pocket, easy to wash and dry, comfortable, affordable. The other benefit of a travel sheet is it can be used as just that, a travel sheet. A good quality travel sheet can be used by your son or daughter for years to come, for those times when the hotel bedding might not seem that clean, like a school trip or sleepover. When traveling to europe or even on family vacations, a travel sheet is a versatile and economical way to protect and provide comfort and peace of mind.


Secrets To A Thrifty Road Trip

With air travel becoming so expensive, not to mention stressful, it makes sense to hop in your car and go. When you factor in wait times, delays, and inconvenience , an old fashioned road trip makes a lot of sense, especially for a family with kids. Yes, gas is pricey, but nothing compared to an airline ticket with transport to and from airports. If planned well, a road trip can be an enjoyable experience for you and your family, with the added benefit of having your own vehicle at your destination.

 Here are a few tips to save you cash while traveling by car:


Gas-   Don't just fill up your car and plan on refilling when you get close to empty. Stopping more frequently  can save money by finding the best prices and taking advantage of them. Use internet sites like GasBuddy.com to seek out the best bargains on your route. A steady foot on the gas will give the best gas milage, so avoid heavy acceleration. 


 Remember to not exceed posted speed limits, which vary from state to state, by more than 10%. Most police and highway patrol will give you that leeway to account for speedometer discrepancies.  A speeding ticket can really put a damper on your expenses.


Food-   Aside from gas and lodging this will be your biggest expense, especially if you have a car full of kids. Before leaving on your trip, pack as much food as you can depending on the length of your trip. Stopping for fast food is the most expensive and unhealthy meal possible. I don't use freezer packs, I freeze a lot of small plastic bottles of water which I use to keep perishables fresh, as well, these frozen bottles in a cooler bag, defrost slowly so there is always some cold water on the drive.If properly frozen, a dozen or so small bottles of water in a good insulated cooler will stay frozen for 2 days. Bring along  packets of your family's favorite powdered drink, like Kool Aid or sugar free no calorie Crystal Lite. These are easily poured into the bottles of water and slake your kids desire for pop. Fresh veggies like carrots and celery replace the need for snack stops. Tofu based dips keep well in cooler bags.


  Bread, peanut butter, bagged snacks and even canned goods like tuna ( don't forget the can opener ) are very easy to prep and keep well in a cooler. Deli meats on the other hand are high in salt and can go bad easily. For trips lasting more than 1 day I don't recommend deli meats, the salt only serves to retain water causing more bathroom stops along the way. 


 For every dollar in food you pack yourself, you save 3 dollars on junk you would buy on the road. You would be surprised how much money and time you can save by bringing along healthy food.


Hotels/Motels-   Lodging can be the most expensive part of the trip if not researched properly. Thanks to the internet, you can plan where you want to stay and reserve ahead of time. Reserving your room ahead of time, even as far as a few months, can save you money. Most major hotel chains offer promotion codes, they don't tell you that on their web sites, you have to search the web for these codes. Promo codes can save you a fair amount of money so take the time to search the coupon sites. 


 I like to pick hotels with locations not more than a mile off my route, but not right on the highway. That way I can get a good night sleep without the drone of traffic disturbing me. If you have experience with a specific chain of hotels, don't take for granted that they are all alike. You might have had a great stay in one location, but have a horrible stay in another. I choose national chains only because most of them have some sort of standards. Other than that one rule, I go for price. 


 I have found, over time, that all hotels are pretty much the same. The rooms are never as clean as you would like. The beds, pillows and especially the blankets and bedspreads are filthy. So I don't let that factor into my choice. To alleviate the stress of dubious bedding, allergens and bedbugs, I pack a few travel sheets like Allersac from Allersac.com. That way I know my family are sleeping on clean sheets with no contact with the hotel bedding. 

 

 A wetted towel placed on the blower unit provides moist air for those dry winter stays.Don't be swayed by the " free breakfast " claims, most of the food at these freebies is fat and sugar laden, and the coffee is usually horrible. I grab some toast with peanut butter or jam or cream cheese and try not to eat their other "baked" goods or what they call eggs. 


With proper planning, packing your own food ,choosing an inexpensive hotel and using an Allersac, your road trip can be easy, healthy, safe, and, save you a whole lot of cash, happy trails.

The 4 Best Money Saving Travel Items For Budget Hotel Stays

So, your home is worth half it's value from last year, you're worried about your job and your 401K is tanking, but you still need to take a vacation or you'll go nuts. You got a great deal on plane tickets and can't wait to feel the hot sun on your face. You just wish you could find a cheaper hotel without worrying about the quality or cleanliness. 


 Why pay through the nose for a ritzy lobby and a flat screen TV when after all, all you're really going to do in the hotel is sleep, well maybe not ALL. I'm not saying you should choose the hotel with the chalk outline in the hallway and the exterminator van parked outside, but in my experience, most hotels are pretty much equal. Price does not determine cleanliness or satisfaction. The $70 a night room can be just as satisfying  as the $270 a night room, even more so when you factor in the cost. Ask yourself this, " what do I really need from my hotel ?"

If you're like me you need 3 things, a clean comfy bed, a clean bathroom, a descent TV for those down times, that's it. Good location ? Helps, but it's not a pre-requisite. A good restaurant ? If you're eating in the hotel restaurant maybe you should stay home. Do you really need that frilly duvet cover and selection of designer teas. Here's what I do to save my bucks for pina colada's instead of some fancy expensive hotel that just ends up not even being as good as the one half the price.


THE most important item for saving money is a travel sheet like Allersac. This product will enable you to peacefully enjoy any bed without the trepidation of unclean bedding.  A Travel sheet will cover the bed and pillow so you get peace of mind. Nothing will ruin a hotel stay faster than dubious bedding, and even if the sheets seem alright, that blanket or bedspread, no matter where you stay, is not very clean. I have experienced unchanged and dirty bedding in some very fine hotels. Conversely, some of the cleanest and most comfortable hotel beds I have slept in have been in budget hotels like Hampton Inn. So use a travel sheet, especially if you are sensitive to detergents or allergens like dust mites.


The next item is a sound generator. This is a small, alarm clock sized gizmo that produces a range of sounds like white noise or rain showers or waves. The one I use I bought at Brookstone for 25 bucks, it works great on 3 AA batteries. So many times I have stayed in a hotel in a big city like New York, and have been kept awake by outside sounds from traffic or sirens or that refrigerator cycling on and off. With an inexpensive sound generator, I sleep like a baby. Perfect for the hotel  off the beaten path or to close to the beaten path.


Clorox wipes, you heard me, Clorox wipes. A small pack of these babies will transform any moderately maintained hotel room and bathroom into a something you could perform minor surgery in. Wipe down all hard surfaces and the TV remote. Take some time and reap a healthy vacation free of those pesky colds so frequently picked up while away.


Last but not least, PROMO COUPONS. Once you have found  a few hotel choices, then search the web for promotional coupons for that hotel chain or specific hotel. Whether it's an AARP or AAA  discount rate, or Hilton Hotels or Holiday Inn Express promo codes, coupons are abundant, especially in the off season. Search thoroughly and compare which coupon gives the biggest bang for the buck. Some are percentage based, 10 or 20 percent savings off the price of the room, others are upgrades or service based, free meals, spa service etc. You would be very surprised at how much you can save with just a 20 minute investment of your time.


These 4 items will enable you to squeeze every last drop of value from your hard earned travel dollar by enabling you to comfortably stay at a budget hotel.

Travel Eczema- 5 Tips To Avoid It

Your eczema has been under control for a while. You have attained that sweet spot of equilibrium where your known eczema triggers are understood and avoided, whatever medications you take are working and not causing side effects, your skin is as good as it gets. Only one problem, you will be traveling soon.


Travel eczema, occurs when your body meets up with irritants and allergens you cannot control, as a result of not being on home turf. Whether it's air, water, food, sun, soaps, detergents or weather, traveling presents some hard to solve problems trying to keep eczema in check.


Sometimes it's the irritant or allergen you are exposed to that you would usually avoid, that causes the problem. But sometimes, just the change of routine or unfamiliar environments can cause flare-ups. Traveling can be stressful and eczema loves stress.


Here are a few tips to keep eczema at bay:


1) Do a little research into the type of foods you will encounter that are indigenous  to the area you will visit. What can you eat, what can't you eat. Eating the cuisines of other cultures is a major component of travel, and knowing what common additives are used in the preparation of popular dishes is a good way to stay symptom free.


2) Pack enough of your favorite medications, cremes, ointments and solutions. Don't think you'll be able to pick some of these up where ever you go. First, some products won't be available, second , they may be very expensive and third, you don't want to spend time running a round looking for something to ease your discomfort. If you travel to a tropical climate and you start to experience eczema symptoms like flaking and cracked skin, these minor openings are perfect places for more serious infections to gain a foothold, if you have the right medication this will not present itself as a problem. Better to have a little extra baggage than find yourself without your wonder creme.


3) Try to drink enough water or fluids, this will keep your system less stressed and better able to cope. I try to drink only bottled water that comes as close as possible to the type I drink at home. Meaning, I drink spring water with a specific mineral/chemical make up, so much sulfur, dissolved salts, etc., so when I travel I don't drink mineral waters which may have higher mineral concentrations or added ingredients. If you drink german beer at home, then drink german beer abroad.


4) Pack and use a travel sheet. Bleaches, detergents, soaps, perfumes are just a few of the triggers a travel sheet will help you to avoid when you spend 30% or more, of your time in a strange bed. An anti-allergen travel sheet, one that can be washed repeatedly, will be your best bet. Make sure, which ever travel sheet you use, it has a pillow pocket to protect against direct contact with the hotel pillow. One of the major causes of allergic eczema is dust mite dander. A travel sheet with a small pore size or one that claims protection from dust mites would be wise.


5) Environmental factors like cold, humidity, sunlight and heat can cause flare-ups especially when it's the change that is the cause. If you travel to a warm climate from mid winter conditions at home, be prepared. Pack clothing that will mitigate reactions, sunblock, hat, gloves etc. The weather might cause your sinus problem to flare, which in turn stresses your body and causes your eczema to activate, or the humidity allows high mold or pollen counts where you travel. There are websites like http://www.aaaai.org/ which publish pollen and mold counts, and many sites for weather forecasts.


Having eczema and learning how it activates and affects you takes years, some people get a handle on it, others don't, but even if you don't know what the causes are, some simple precautions, a little research and remaining calm can help you to get the most out of traveling, even with eczema.


Swine Flu- Can You Catch It From Your Hotel Bed?

How many times have you stayed in a hotel where you wondered about the hygiene and cleanliness of the bedding. What can you actually catch from sleeping on an unclean bed. Even if the sheets have been changed, what about the pillow or bedspread or blanket ?


Hepatitis A virus can survive outside the body for for months. HAV can survive certain acids and some heat and survive in dried feces. Other Hepatitis viruses such as HBV and HCV can live from 16 hours to up to a week.


Researchers have known since 2005 that "superbugs" like C.Difficille, which is found mainly in hospitals , can live for weeks in bedding and can be resistant to even bleach. Staphylococcus aureus ( MRSA ) is a relatively common bacterium found on skin and nasal surfaces of healthy people and animals. MRSA has cause outbreaks in schools and gyms, transmitted through contact with towels.


If bedding has not been changed or cleaned properly, transmission of bacteria and viruses is possible. Catching a virus from hotel bedding is not a common occurrence but it is possible, especially when you talk about padded headboards, quilted bedspreads and pillows , which can retain enough moisture to enable a virus to live long enough to infect. Bacteria, on the other hand, is a much hardier form of life.If the guest before you had a bacterial infection and deposited enough of that bacteria onto the headboard or pillow, then it's possible you could be infected.


 Molds responsible for respiratory and skin problems like eczema are virtually indestructible and can live almost anywhere. According to a 1999 Mayo clinic study, 93% of patients with chronic rhino-sinusitis ( CRS ) had allergenic fungal sinusitis. Molds thrive in damp dark areas, like the air conditioner area in tropical climates. That smell when you first turn on the air conditioner in your hotel could be symptomatic of a mold problem.


So what about swine flu ? Swine flu virus or the rhinoviruses that cause colds, needs living cells to stay alive. Without these cells, found in bodily fluids like blood,mucous or saliva, viruses have a short lifespan, between a few seconds and 48 hours, depending on the surface. Viruses tend to live longer on nonporous surfaces, like doorknobs, than on porous surfaces, like fabrics. But if the fabric is dampened with enough fluid, mucous, saliva or fecal matter, the virus may persist for much longer periods.


Can you catch swine flu from your hotel bed ? Not likely. You would have to lie down and put your face into a deposit of swine flu virus within minutes of an infected person lying there. But, if you should happen to come into contact with a damp spot of infected bodily fluids, well then it is very possible.


While it is highly unlikely that you will encounter a bed in a hotel which, not only has not been changed, but is still damp with the previous guests infected bodily fluids, "better safe than sorry", in this day and age of pandemics and poor housekeeping, is a catch phrase to live by. 


The same precautions and methods you should use for any hotel bed when checking for bedbugs, will serve you as well in checking for damp or unclean bedding. Don't wait until you are ready to climb into bed after a long day of sightseeing, check as soon as you get into your room. GET RID OF THE BEDSPREAD ! Throw it into a corner and forget about it because the last time it was cleaned, Jimmy Carter was in office.Pull back a corner of the bedding closest to the headboard, check for rusty colored spots and bedbugs. Slide your hand and arm under the sheets on top of the mattress protector ( hopefully there is one ) and feel for any damp spots. Remember, you don't know who slept in this bed before you. Maybe it was an incontinent senior, or a diaper changing mom and baby, what about a bed wetting child. Anything is possible, why not take a minute to make sure before you or one of your family hops in. Now smell your hand, if it stinks, wash and leave the room. Better your hand than the rest of you.


After checking the bed, move on to the headboard, if it's quilted or fabric covered, just run your hand over it to check for dampness. Again, smell your hand and repeat above instructions. If your hand smells then your head will too once you lay you head there.


Now the most important item, the pillow. This lump of fiber or feather filled material is more than capable of absorbing and storing fluids,  mucous, urine, sweat, and blood. All that separates it from you is a pillow case and hopefully a barrier pillow protector.Take the pillow in your hands and squeeze, hold the compressed pillow for 20 seconds, this will give you enough time to feel if any dampness is present. I do this a few times in different places on the pillow, to be sure it is dry.


After spending the 5 minutes it took to inspect the bed, headboard, and pillow, I STILL lay down a travel sheet like Allersac. If clean sheets are all that separate me from the mattress and pillow, then the added protection of my own travel sheet will serve to provide me with the peace of mind to relax and feel comfortable knowing I washed the sheets.


Scabies From Hotel Bedding ? - More Often Than You Think

Surprisingly, scabies, is one of the most talked about communicable parasites on the internet. The quantity of postings from people who have caught scabies from hotel bedding surprised me. I always thought scabies was a parasite associated with very poor countries. I did not realize that there are an estimated 300 million cases of scabies worldwide with one million of them occurring in the United States.


 Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis is the species of itch mite that can infest a human. The adult female mite will burrow into the upper layer of skin and deposit eggs. The resulting infestation can become very itchy and present with a " scabies rash " Symptoms may not appear until 2-6 weeks after initial exposure but more quickly if the person has been infested before. An infested person can transmit scabies even if they show no symptoms.


 According to the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ), "Scabies usually is passed by direct, prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infested person. However, a person with crusted (Norwegian) scabies can spread the infestation by brief skin-to-skin contact or by exposure to bedding, clothing, or even furniture that he/she has used."


 Via, AAA traveler's companion, reports a woman, E. Sturges, contracted scabies from the bedding in a "well-known" motel chain. She was reimbursed for her room, but not for her medical bills. Just google " scabies from hotel " and literally hundreds of hits emerge. While human to human contact is the most prevalent mode of transmission, bedding seems to be overlooked and under diagnosed.


 Once infested, scabies is treatable with prescription lotions and creams called scabicides. Not only should the infested person be properly treated, but, according to the CDC " bedding, clothing, and towels used by infested persons or their household, sexual, and close contacts anytime during the three days before treatment should be decontaminated by washing in hot water and drying in a hot dryer, by dry-cleaning, or by sealing in a plastic bag for at least 72 hours. Scabies mites generally do not survive more than 2 to 3 days away from human skin."


 Because scabies mites and eggs can live away from human skin for 2 to 3 days, transmission from bedding is highly possible. If the hotel guest who stayed in your room before you had scabies, well unless that bed had been properly cleaned and changed, there is a very good chance you could catch scabies, and it happens, more often than you think. Most scabies cases are probably not even reported because people who catch scabies for the first time usually only exhibit symptoms a few weeks after exposure. So if you stay in a hotel and catch scabies there, you go home, and a few weeks later become infested. Now you have transmitted scabies to your home and family, and you don't have a clue or proof of where you caught it.


 How can you protect yourself and your family from acquiring scabies ? Scabies are tiny, females range from 0.25mm - 0.45mm in size and males can be half that size, so they are almost impossible to see. Their eggs are even smaller. Because you can't really inspect a bed for scabies, your best line of defense is still inspection and barrier protection." Inspection" as in inspect the bedding to make sure the linens are fresh and have been changed. If you are leery about your bedding and don't believe the sheets are clean, either ask for a new room or find another hotel. 


 A barrier travel sheet with a small pore size is your best protection, even after inspection. Companies like Allersac.com produce and sell cotton travel sheets for the express purpose of creating a physical barrier to scabies, lice and bedbugs, while providing a comfortable, breathable envelope to sleep in. Remember, if you purchase a travel sheet, it must be washable in hot water and 

dry-able in hot air, otherwise you won't be able to properly sanitize the travel sheet between using.


 Ease of transportation, the opening of borders, and inexpensive travel deals have served to make the world a smaller place than it was 20 years ago. All too often, unclean bedding, is experienced worldwide, by hotel guests. It's not just dirty or gross, there are parasites like scabies, lice and bedbugs to be caught. Simple precautions and products can make your travels safer and healthier.