Drinking Water While on Vacation: Health Concerns and Safety Tips for Drinking Water Abroad

Water on Vacation

Since so many people are taking holidays at this time of year, it’s a perfect time to remind folks that seemingly innocent water can really put a damper on your vacation if it’s not safe.

Beware of Poor Water Quality

You don’t have to be traveling to a third world country to be aware of poor water quality. And even in places with excellent services, you may find that the local water upsets your stomach simply because your body isn’t used to the unique bacteria content of the water.

That said, there are serious diseases that you could contract if drinking water from unsafe sources. Some examples of potential water-borne illnesses are Hepatitis A, Typhoid fever, viral gastroenteritis, cholera, cyclosporiasis, and schistosomiasis. The symptoms of these diseases vary, but they will almost all result in abdominal pain, cramping and diarrhea (among other symptoms). They are more serious than the more common “traveler’s diarrhea”, that is usually caused by E.coli contamination.

Here are some tips to remember when dealing with water during vacations abroad:

  • If you are unsure of the local water quality, stick to bottled water. Be aware that some cases have been reported of vendors filling bottles with tap water for resale. This isn’t particularly typical, but to be safe you should buy your bottled water from major retail outlets or other trusted vendors. Or you can buy carbonated water. If it’s still fizzy, then it’s not been opened.
  • Even ice cubes pose a risk. Just because the water is frozen, that doesn’t mean it’s “clean”. If you’re taking precautions to use bottled water, don’t contaminate it with ice cubes from the hotel mini-bar. And alcoholic drinks are still susceptible to contamination from unsafe ice cubes. The alcohol won’t actually kill any bacteria.
  • Make sure to only order cooked food in restaurants (nothing raw, rare or undercooked). Most foods are washed or otherwise in contact with water during preparation and storage, so you need to have all your foods thoroughly cooked before eating.
  • Vegetables, fruits, and other products are likely washed in water before serving and will continue to be contaminated on their surfaces. You should avoid salads or other fresh foods, with the exception of fruits that you can peel yourself. Removing the peel will also remove any bacteria or viruses on the outside.
  • For further medical and scientific details on the issues with drinking water, and the above-mentioned diseases, please visit the sites listed below. This is a serious issue and should be researched before taking any holiday trips.

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