Getting Sick at Great Wolf Lodge

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We’d heard a lot of rumors from other parents about the mysterious ‘Great Wolf Lodge Flu.’  The more we asked about it, the more stories we heard.

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When we researched the topic online we found a lot of comments and reviews about families or children who’d gotten sick during their stay.  But, we’re a family of hearty immune systems so I didn’t worry to much about the chatter.

I can now say, after two visits to Great Wolf Lodge (GWL) in the last six months, on both occasions our young children have gotten sick.

I’ve heard other people speculate that the odd symptoms are from Ecoli, the food, or the water.  I honestly have no clue what causes it, nor can I even diagnose what it is.  I also can’t say that my kids actually contracted an illness at GWL.  But, it all seems a bit coincidental and peculiar.

On our first visit, in late spring, our youngest ended up with bad diarrhea and a sinus infection.  We figured it was just from too much dirty water getting into his system in the pool and on the slides.  After all, kids are spouting, snorting, swallowing and coughing it up all day.  There’s water spouting out from so many places that babies, toddlers and small children will inevitably end up consuming it throughout the day.  We simply coped with his symptoms and forgot all about it.

Then, on this recent trip, for their Howl-o-ween event, our four-year-old seemed really off after our second day at the lodge.  He kept asking to go back to the room and would lay down for nearly an hour at a time.  On our third day, when we left the lodge, he had no appetite and a slight fever.  He seemed to have a general unwell vibe going on.

Then, our two-year-old started showing signs of feeling sick.  The morning after we got back from the lodge, he woke in the early morning hours, vomiting in his bed.  He too had a slight fever and a loss of appetite.  He remained sick throughout the day (vomiting and warm to touch).  It’s almost as though their system needs to get something out of it.

I use disinfectant wipes all over our hotel room as soon as we arrive so I know our actual room was cleaned. I also try to wash everyone’s hands throughout the day and I carry hand-sanitizer with me as well.

But, when you’re in a place that designed for young children, and everything is touch focused (arcade games, crafts, the water park, buffet serving spoons), cross-contamination seems inevitable.  They also keep the lodges very warm (for the water park and because everyone walks around damp and in swim suits) and hot air is a breeding ground for bacteria.  So even though you’re likely basking in the hot, moist air…all I can think of now is EW!!!

Here are some tips to help your family stay healthy when visiting resorts:

(1) Bring disinfectant wipes with you (anti-bacterial wipes like Lysol or Clorox wipes) and clean off items in your room like the TV remote, dresser knobs, door handles, the microwave, light switches etc.

(2) Try to keep little ones (babies and small toddlers) head above water (take advantage of life jackets and/or carry them in the pool).  That way you reduce the amount of water they actually ingest.

(3) Avoid eating at buffets, but if they’re the only food option, use a napkin on all serving spoons (to keep your skin off of the public serving spoons/knives) or use hand-sanitizer before anyone eats.

(4) Try to keep rested.  I know it’s hard because everyone is on vacation mode, but when young kids get over-tired their immune system weakens leaving them more susceptible to cold and flu.

(5) Avoid water-fountains.  Bring your own eco-friendly, reusable water bottles to resorts.  Fill them up in your room or at restaurants.  Try to keep them away from public water fountains where a lot of germs tend to fester.

(6) Bring healthy, balanced snacks to refuel your family.  In between restaurant meals, keep your children fueled with healthier snacks.  They can still be kid-friendly and tasty, but opt for things like Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (they’re filled with nut butters so they’re substantial and healthy), sliced fruit, mini-muffins, fruit snacks, low sugar/low-sodium crackers etc.

Clif Bars Family Travel Guide

(7) Take naps.  If your kids are melting down (we saw a lot of these at GWL), no matter the age or their normal sleep habits, let them rest.  Encourage a TV break, book time or quiet time with the iPad.  It might seem counterintuitive to spend your time in the hotel room, but over-tired kids are more susceptible to get sick (a lot of them lay down on public floors etc).  If your kid gets sick while you’re in vacation, you’ll end up spending way more time doing nothing…

(8) Bring multi-vitamins.  We packed up multi-vitamins, vitamin D, Omega etc for everyone in the family.  When you’re eating out a lot, simple nutrients can help their systems.  Bringing Manuka honey is a great idea too.  As soon as you see signs of a runny nose, sore throat, or weakened immune system, give your children a big, raw spoonful.

Overall, getting sick in public spaces (especially during transitional seasons were germs are at their peak) is next to inevitable.

Would I go back to Great Wolf Lodge knowing that my kids tend to get sick whenever we go?  Likely.  I’d probably approach our next trip a bit differently now that we’re two for two in terms of coming back ill.

But, avoiding travel because you’re scared of colds/flus doesn’t make any sense either.  Your kids go to school and that’s the most germ-infested place of them all (in my opinion).

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