Safe Drinking Water While Traveling | Stay Hydrated & Avoid Getting Sick on Your Trip

Water Safety and International Travel

Planning to go to another country for your next vacation or business trip? Be sure to read these important drinking-water safety tips before you set off.

By Diana Rodriguez

Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

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Water safety is a major concern for people planning international travel. The last thing anyone wants to worry about is whether or not the drinking water is safe or whether or not they’ll get sick on their vacation or in the middle of a business conference. Here is some important information that can help you to protect yourself.

Identifying Places With Potential Water Safety IssuesIf the local drinking water is unsafe at your destination, your body will certainly find out, and quickly. Traveler's diarrhea is a common side effect of drinking contaminated water, and it happens often. Of the roughly 10 million people who travel internationally each year, between 20 and 50 percent will experience diarrhea on their vacation or soon after returning home.

"I would be careful of the water in any place that is less than first world. Basically [in] the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, the water should be pretty safe," says Richard Ostendorf, MD, a physician with the Travel Medicine Clinic at Company Health Care in Garfield Heights, OH.

If you're heading out of the country, it's a good idea to see a doctor before you go to find out if there are any vaccinations or medications you will need for your vacation. "People who go overseas should consult a travel medicine clinic just to see if they need any vaccinations,” says Dr. Ostendorf. “At that point they could be advised if [they're traveling to] a country where you should be concerned about the drinking water.”

Water Precautions for International TravelEven if you are careful to stick to bottled water, unsafe water can still be a health hazard. While drinking only bottled water is a good place to start, you also need to think about all the other ways you use — and might potentially ingest — water on your vacation.

If the local water is unsafe to drink, it may also be unsafe to shower or swim in, or to use when you wash fruits and vegetables, brush your teeth, or make ice cubes for your drinks. Here are some general water-safety rules to follow:

  • Swimming.Wherever you go, be sure that you check that it's safe to swim before you head out into a body of water. Swimming in contaminated water can lead to infections, infestations with parasites, and diarrhea. Avoid swimming in lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans that may be contaminated with sewage and waste. Before you leave, ask your travel doctor if any particular lakes or rivers in the area are known to be dangerous for swimming because of parasites or bacteria.
  • Ice.If you're vacationing in an area where water is or might be unsafe, keep ice out of your drinks. If your glass had ice in it that was dumped out, ask for a new glass or thoroughly wash it out with bottled water before refilling it.
  • Fruit juice, coffee, and tea.Only drink tea or coffee that is made with boiled, purified, or bottled water; never straight from the tap. Beware of homemade fruit juices made locally; they could also contain unsafe water.
  • Brushing your teeth.Use bottled water to brush your teeth if the water is unsafe where you are staying. Ostendorf reminds travelers never to let tap water touch your toothbrush; use bottled water for dampening and rinsing the toothbrush as well.
  • Showering."For showering, I tell people to make sure you keep your mouth shut,” says Ostendorf. That means no singing in the shower! “Since you're using soap you should be okay for cleaning yourself, but keep the water out of your mouth." You should also keep any open wounds covered when you shower.

Talking to the Hotel StaffEven if you think the drinking water may be safe in the country you’re travelling to, it’s probably a good idea to double check. "I would always ask when you get to the place you're staying — don't just assume that the water is safe," Ostendorf recommends.

And, Ostendorf notes, make sure you are communicating clearly, especially if you are in a country where you don't speak the language. "You have to be very precise in what you ask for. Ask specifically if the water is safe todrink," says Ostendorf. And, "be careful when speaking if English is not their first language," he notes.

Purifying Drinking WaterIf you plan to purify water rather than drink bottled water, there are a few simple ways that you might go about it:

  • Water filter.These can filter out bacteria and many other harmful contaminants that may make you sick. However, viruses are too small to be filtered out, so a second method may be required after filtering. Filters are usually available in stores selling camping equipment.
  • Water purification tablets.Before you leave for your vacation, you can purchase iodine tablets produced to chemically disinfect your water, Some parasites are not killed by iodine, however, so an additional second method, such as filtering, may improve water safety. Be sure to follow the directions carefully as iodine used improperly can be toxic.
  • Boiling.Boiling water is one of the most effective ways to purify it. Let the water boil for one whole minute, then cool on its own without adding ice. At very high altitudes, water must be boiled for three minutes.

These are the safest, easiest, and most reliable methods of purifying water on your own. Don't attempt to purify water by adding alcohol or lemons to the water. Use one of the proven steps above to kill potential contaminants — or simply stick to bottled water.

With these precautions, you won't have to worry about the safety of the water you're drinking, no matter what exotic international travel destination you visit.

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Date: 06.12.2018, 20:31 / Views: 43452