Water is crucial to human existence, but many places around the world do not have safe drinking water, making travel to those regions difficult and potentially very dangerous without proper preparation. For day seven of Passport Health’s travel tips countdown this holiday season, here are key tips to avoid waterborne illness while on vacation.
7. Do Your Research
It is generally easy to find out whether the location you are going to has safe drinking water or not. A quick look at the CDC’s website can help in this regard. Be sure to check the guidance for the specific region within the country you will be visiting as standards can vary greatly between urban and developing areas. If you are ever in doubt when overseas, be safe, and avoid consuming the local water entirely.
6. Drink the Right Bottled Water
Not all bottled water is created equal! Especially in developing countries, it is entirely possible that some bottled water might just come straight from the tap. Pepsi and/or Coca-Cola exist in practically every country, and each one generally has their own line of bottled water which has been properly treated and is reputable. Try to look for these brands and make sure the bottle is sealed properly.
5. Off the Rocks
On a hot day, nothing tastes better than a cold drink over ice, but, when traveling through a country with water that may be questionable, you need to avoid ice as well. Though heat (boiling) kills almost all bacteria and things that can cause harm to body, freezing kills almost none of them. Refrigerated drinks may be available, but if not, it is better to just have your drink at room temperature. This can be a really tough decision in warmer climates, but this smart choice could also save you from having to go through something much worse like traveler’s diarrhea.
4. Swim Safely
Many of the most popular locales that travelers go to for beach time do not have the best water treatment and sewage systems. Over time, this lack of infrastructure can take a toll on the ecosystem, leading to an oceanfront that is less than sanitary. Be sure to check whether the water is safe to swim in before entering the water. If it is safe, there are certain precautions that should then be taken. When swimming, try your best to avoid ingesting water as this can lead to the same negative effects as drinking from the tap. Absolutely do not enter the water if you have any open wounds that could become infected.
3. Filters, Tablets, and Heat
There are three main ways of obtaining clean water if bottled water is not an option: using a filter, using tablets, and using heat (boiling). Filters are fairly easy to come by, and are generally the best purification method. Tablets can cause some side effects, and they generally require additional time before the water is ready to drink. Boiling will eliminate almost everything in the water, but this method will require some kind of fuel as well as time to boil the water and then wait for it to cool. The biggest downside to tablets and boiling is that, depending on water quality, you may have to strain or otherwise filter your water before treating it, adding yet another step.
2. Be Careful of Other Beverage Options
Water is not the only drink that requires caution. As stated above, anything that contains ice should be avoided, but be aware that some beverages may contain water as an additive. For example, juices may be watered down with tap water, making them less than sanitary. Care is even required with hot beverages, like teas or coffee, because they only become safe when the water has been brought to a full boil for a long period of time. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
1. Prepare for Traveler’s Diarrhea
Traveler’s diarrhea is the most common ailment to afflict international travelers, so bring treatment measures with you, just in case. Antibiotics and rehydration methods, like CeraLyte, will help you to overcome the symptoms. If symptoms persist for more than a few days, seek medical attention.
What have you found to be the most effective method of staving off water-borne disease? Comment below or on the Passport Health Facebook page to share your tips with fellow travelers!