10 ways Your RV could be Making you Sick (and what to do about it

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10 ways Your RV could be Making you Sick (and what to do about it)

10 ways Your RV could be Making you Sick (and what to do about it)

Our RVs are supposed to be happy places full of fun and laughter. However, there are some things that you may be doing that are making you sick. Take a look at this list. Are you guilty of any of them?

  1. Blender – Failure to thoroughly clean your blender after each use could be inviting illness into your RV (and no, the alcohol you use in the margaritas does not sanitize the unit!). Liquids that collect at the bottom of the blender can become home to such lovely houseguests as E. coli and salmonella, turning your healthy concoction into a vehicle for Martian death flu. Protect yourself by cleaning your blender after each use. Wash your hands well, take the appliance apart and clean each component, rinse well, and dry before you store it.

Related Read: Avoiding Food Poisoning on the Road: The Visual Inspection

  1. Bath mat – When was the last time you washed your bath mat? Well, think about this. When you step out of the shower, all clean and shiny, you stop on that dirty mat that is filled with bacteria, mold, and dust mites. These can lead to illnesses like allergies and colds as well as foot fungal infections. Three things can help you here. One, wash your bath mat weekly. Two, dry off your feet before stepping out of the shower. Three, put it away until you need it so people don’t walk on it when they walk in the bathroom (with their dirty shoes).
  2. Bed sheets – Bed sheets can be pretty gross when you think about it. I mean, if you sleep 7 hours a night, in one week you’ve spent 49 hours there, and your sheets have collected your sweat, drool, bacteria, dust mites, the list goes on and on. Dust mites are particularly nasty little critters. They can make your allergies worse, make it easier for you to catch a cold, and more.
Additionally, if your environment is humid your sheets can get damp. Bacteria flock to that like hippies to Woodstock and thank you by passing on disgusting illnesses like gastrointestinal infections and the flu. Avoid this disaster by washing your sheets every week – including your pillow cases.
  1. Cleaning products – The toxic chemicals in cleaning products is not news to, well, anyone really. But we still buy them. Why? The lemony scent does brighten up the place, doesn’t it? At the same time, the chemicals in that bottle turn it into a lemony scented disease machine. They have been linked to kidney damage, skin irritation, and liver damage. They also depress the central nervous system.
Worse, you can’t trust the labels on the products because only around 7 percent of the products that are top sellers make the toxicity information publicly available. There are plenty of lemony smelling (and effective) eco-friendly cleaners so find a brand you like. Of course, you could also use the completely awesome vinegar and baking soda method.
  1. Vacuum cleaner – If you aren’t cleaning your vacuum’s filter on a regular basis you could be setting yourself and your family up for some nasty allergies. The filter is a trap for bacteria and microbes. When you use it, the dust that comes off has some seriously gnarly stuff coming off of it, even antibiotic resistant germs that can damage your lungs. When you vacuum, wear a mask and open a window. Then make sure you clean the filter!
  2. Refrigerator drawers and trays – Your refrigerator can harbor some nasty stuff too. When you clean out your fridge, do you also clean the trays, drawers, and shelves? You should. Get you some good eco-friendly cleaning products (see #4) and wipe that puppy down good! Wash under the drawers too. In other words, clean every surface in that fridge and avoid stomach issues that can make you feel like you’d have to get better to die.
  3. Mold – Unfortunately, mold is pretty common in RVs. Leaks in the roof or around windows can lead to trapped water in the walls or floor. Leaky pipes can also go for a long time undetected. In the rather moist environment of RVs (especially in humid climates) this can lead to rapid growth. What’s worse, water travels. This means that if the water enters you camper through a leak in the roof at the front the water can travel in the wall all the way to the rear. That leaves a nice little trail for mold to grow.
Look for symptoms of mold exposure that include coughing, sneezing, rashes, and dry eyes. You also may notice a faint, musty odor. If you suspect mold you may look yourself, but you might do better to hire a mold specialist to do an inspection. Kill the mold using a mixture of ½ cup bleach to 1 quart of water. Use a soft brush to clean the surface thoroughly.

Related Read: Surviving a Cold or Flu in your RV

  1. Heating and cooling system – Many people in RVs use space heaters. They often heat one room and it keeps the whole rig pretty comfortable – unless you keep the bathroom door shut. Then every time you answer a call of nature it feels like you are hiking across the frozen tundra. First, it isn’t good for your body to have to make such dramatic adjustments to the climate. Second, the heat could be drying you out. Do you cough at night? A humidifier might be the answer. Oh, and for the love of all that is good and right in the world, leave the bathroom door open so the heat can get in there!
  2. Showerhead – Researchers have found that many people’s showerheads carry alarming amounts of Mycobacterium avium, a pretty nasty bacteria that can cause pulmonary disease and lung infections. The water that drips out of your showerhead contains these nasty little bugs and they will make you sick. The remedy? Clean your showerhead thoroughly every six months – or each time you clean the bathroom, whichever makes you feel better.


  1. Your lights – Many RVs come with LED lighting and for the most part it’s pretty great. However, not all LED lights are created equal. Some types, particularly lower quality bulbs can flicker and emit certain types of light that can seriously affect people who are sensitive to it. Even those who aren’t sensitive can develop a wicked migraine from the flickering (even if you can’t visibly detect the flicker).
Were any of these items a wakeup call for you?

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Stephanie A. Mayberry


Stephanie A. Mayberry

Stephanie A. Mayberry escaped the hustle and bustle of city life in Washington, D.C. where she worked as an analyst, FOIA officer, and technical writer for the U.S. federal government to pursue her first love, freelance writing, full time. She has been a writer, author, public speaker, and photographer for more than 25 years; now she, her husband, and little dog Gizmo enjoy the laid back lifestyle as RV full-timers going wherever the wind takes them. Learn more about Stephanie at stephaniemayberry.com

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