Allergies and hotel rooms

Dust mites are the largest contributors to allergies and due to poor standards of cleanliness and hygiene in many hotels, levels of dust mites are very high.

Dust mites are arachnids, the class of arthropods which includes spiders, scorpions and ticks. They are tiny insects that are invisible to the naked eye. They feed on human skin flakes and are found in mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, bedcovers, clothes, and fabric and fabric-covered items. Body parts and faeces from dust mites can trigger asthma in individuals with allergic reactions to dust mites, and exposure to dust mites can cause asthma in children who have not previously exhibited asthma symptoms.

When we sleep we produce half a litre of sweat and shed about 1 gram of skin cells per day. It is estimated that in a mattress there may be up to 10 million dust mites in a mattress and up to 10% of the weight of a mattress is made up of dead skin and dust mites. It is also thought that up to 80% of the dust we see is in fact dead skin cells.

An undercover operation by Which? Holiday (Jan 2009) has uncovered poor standards of cleaning in some of the UK’s most visited budget hotel chains. Stained and mouldy mattresses, a suspected blood-stained duvet, food debris on the floor, high levels of dust under the bed, a toilet with urine and faeces round the edge of the seat were just some of the discoveries made.

This website is designed to help you find clean, allergy friendly rooms and/ or accommodation where your food allergies and special dietary requirements are specifically catered for.

It is important to note that every allergy sufferer is unique. As a sufferer only you will be aware of important allergy friendly features that you require and those that you need to avoid. The aim of this website is to highlight as many features, both those that may be of benefit and those that may aggravate allergies in order for each individual to be able to find accommodation to suit their own particular needs.

Features of such rooms/ accommodation include:

Anti allergy pillows / duvet

Hypoallergenic pillows and duvets which can be washed at temperatures of up to 60 degrees which will kill all dust mites. They may also have a impermeable cover meaning dust mites and their faeces are unable to cross from the mattress/ pillow to yourself and vice versa.

Anti allergy mattress / pillow protectors

Mattresses and pillows are encased in an impermeable hypoallergenic cover meaning dust mites and their faeces are unable to cross from the mattress /pillow to yourself and vice versa.

High Thread count linen

The high thread count means the fabric is tightly woven meaning that less allergens are able to penetrate the linen, ensuring better air quality.

Bedding washed at 60 degrees. Bedding washed at this temperature kills any dust mites.

Limited upholstery

Dust mites live in soft furnishings. If throws, cushions, carpets, rugs such like are removed, there are fewer suitable habitats for dust mites. These soft furnishings are also washed infrequently in hotels making them a source of bacteria and germs.

Blinds /shutters instead of curtains

Curtains gather dust and are difficult to clean, thereby providing a habitat and food for dust mites. Blind and shutters can be wiped clean easily, removing the dust necessary to keep the dust mites alive.

Mattresses professionally cleaned

A regularly, professionally treated mattress will have undergone a process designed to killed dust mites and removed their faeces.

Hard Flooring

Dust mites are unable to live in vinyl, tiles, laminates or wooden flooring. This flooring is also easier to clean.

Hoover with a HEPA filter: Frequent vacuuming as a dust control measure may, in fact, aggravate allergic asthmatic conditions because conventional (non-HEPA) vacuum cleaners blow the dust through the cleaner's bag and back into the air. Using a vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter traps the very small dust particulates so they are not blown back into the air.

Damp dusting

Regular dusting simply moves the dust into the air, allowing it to settle later. If a damp duster is used this allows dust to be trapped and removed resulting in improved air quality.

Natural Ventilation

Dust mites allergens live within the room and not outside so be ventilating the room can allow the allergen to escape. Ventilation in hotel rooms with ensuite bathrooms is especially important as high levels of humidity encourage the growth of dust mites and moulds.

Under floor heating. Conventional radiators and warm air heating not only trap dust but in turn create air flows causing allergens to be blown around the room. Under floor heating does not trap dust and also reduces humidity which in turn reduces the growth of mites and moulds efficiently.


These will reduce the humidity in a room. Dust mites and mould need humidity to survive so by reducing humidity levels there are likely to be less dust mites.

No smoking

Many people are sensitive to tobacco smoke but for those that already suffer from allergies, tobacco smoke can aggravate their symptoms. A public smoking ban came into effect in July 2007 however, there are some exceptions that allergy sufferers should be aware of. Hotels and establishments offering overnight accommodation are allowed to offer designated smoking bedrooms and designated public smoking areas. Certain requirements are set out in the Regulations including the fact that the room must be completely enclosed and there is no ventilation system that vents into any other smoke-free areas. Communal smoking rooms may not be used for any other purpose, such as recreational rooms where non-smoking residents may be exposed to second hand smoke.

For sufferers of severe respiratory problems or are severely allergic to smoke it is useful to note which establishments offer a totally smoke free environment and those that offer some designated smoking rooms and smoking areas.

Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is a system that uses ducts to distribute cooled and/or dehumidified air to a room. When turned on the air handling unit draws in air from the room which is then pulled through a filter where airborne particles such as dust and lint are removed. Sophisticated filters may remove microscopic pollutants as well. The filtered, cooled air is then carried back into the room. For hay fever sufferers air conditioning units means that a comfortable indoor temperature can be achieved without opening windows and letting allergens inside. Reducing the indoor humidity means numbers of dustmites are reduced as dustmites need humidity to survive. For allergy sufferers whose symptoms are made worse by indoor pollutants, it is important that air conditioning units are serviced regularly and filters changed frequently to ensure they are effective at reducing indoor pollutants.

No pets

Cat and dog dander, or skin flakes, as well as their saliva and urine, can cause an allergic reaction – sneezing, wheezing, and running eyes and nose. Pet dander can remain in a room for up to six months after the pet has been removed so it is important that a room is pet free to ensure no pet dander is ever present. We do ask owners of establishments if they have a pet that lives in the same building as guest accommodation in order to point this out to those of you who suffer from pet allergies.

Air Purifiers

An air purifier is able to capture airborne pollution, allergens, smoke and odours ensuring that the air quality in the room is greatly improved.

Non- scented cleaning products and air fresheners

Many people with allergies are sensitive to scented products. Mary Lamielle, the president of the National Center for Environmental Health Strategies, who in a 1990 press release lists the following symptoms induced by fragrances: “watery eyes, double vision, sneezing, stuffiness, allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, tinnitus, dizziness, vertigo, coughing, bronchitis, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, asthma, anaphylaxis, headache, migraine, cluster headaches, seizures, convulsions, fatigue, confusion, disorientation, incoherence, short term memory loss, anxiety, irritability, depression, mood swings, rashes, hives, eczema, flushing, muscle and joint inflammation, pain and weakness, irregular or rapid heartbeat hypertension”.2 2. Irene Ruth Wilkenfield, Patient Education: Scents Make No Sense, The Environmental Physician, Fall 1991, page 26

No flowers/plants in room

Plant pollens can cause hay fever. Mould can also grow on the surface of the damp soil causing allergic reactions.

Air cleaning plants

Some houseplants purify and renew our stale indoor air by filtering out toxins, pollutants and the carbon dioxide we exhale - replacing them with life sustaining oxygen. Research by NASA showed that some house plants are more efficient in filtering out toxins than others. Philodendrons, Spider plants, and Pothos were found to be the most efficient in the removal of formaldehyde. Gerbera Daisies and Chrysanthemums were found to be effective in the removal of benzene, a known carcinogen.

Rooms cleaned and aired on day of arrival

To ensure there are no traces of dust hotel rooms need to be rehoovered, dusted, aired, and the bed aired, on the day of arrival. A room may have been cleaned when the last occupant left but this may have been some time ago.

Bacteriostatic barrier applied to all room surfaces

A bacteriostatic barrier is applied to all surfaces to repel micro-organisms that trigger allergies and cause illness.

For guests with sensitive skin

Laundry detergent suitable for sensitive skin

Laundry detergent chemical residue is the most overlooked cause of sensitive skin reactions, contact dermatitis, MCS, and eczema irritation. Common laundry chemicals that can leave residues include perfumes, UV brighteners, dyes, carbonates, salts, fillers, enzymes, and even lubricants for your washing machine.

Chemical residues coat and stiffen fibres and fabrics making your linen and clothes itchy and scratchy so that you must use fabric softener, another major irritation to sensitive skin. The residue left behind in clothes after just 8 washings can add as much as 2% to the weight of the fabric. When the fabric is in contact with the skin moisture activates the detergent residue and begins to irritate the sensitive skin.

Laundry detergent suitable for sensitive skin leaves no residue behind.

Non chemical cleaning products

While much of the research is mixed or inconclusive, a variety of human and animal studies have linked chemicals common in household cleaning products with a wide range of health risks. Some of the chemicals commonly found in cleaning products can cause irritation of the eyes, allergies to the skin, irritate the lungs, and as such poses a serious health risk to those with pre-existing heart or respiratory problems. They have also been linked to liver and kidney problems.

Chlorine filter

This is a filter which is attached to the shower removing the chlorine from the water. Chlorine vapours can be inhaled during a hot shower and absorbed through the skin. Chlorine when in contact with the skin and hair breaks down cells thus depriving them of moisture and elasticity. It also poses health risks such as complications with asthma and bronchitis. In 1992 the American Journal of Health published a report that showed a 15% - 35% increase in certain types of cancer for people who consume chlorinated water. The report also stated that much of these effects were due to showering in chlorinated water

Special menus for food allergies

Some hotels will offer special menus for people have food allergies and intolerances to foods including nuts, gluten, wheat and dairy products. It is advisable to mention these food allergies when booking your accommodation to ensure that your needs can be catered for.

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