Water Safety – Travelers’ Health

We all drink water. However when you travel to different parts of the world, the water you drink may make you ill, even though millions of locals drink it everyday with no adverse side effects. This is because our immune systems have not built up a resistance to the micro organisms that live in the water, whereas the local population’s immune systems have.

If you are going to be in a place for a long time that has fairly good, clean drinking water, you could start drinking the water slowly and your immune system would cope, so that within a few weeks you could drink the water with impunity. However, when traveling, you are usually only in a country for a short period of time so it is advisable to drink bottled water if you do not wish to fall ill. Drinking small amounts of the water will usually do you no harm. So brushing your teeth, eating fruit that has been washed in water and putting ice in your drinks will probably be fine. However in places where water quality is dire, the last three actions are things that you really should try to avoid as even a small exposure to the bacteria can make you very ill.

Do not drink water that is potentially contaminated with human or animal faeces. This water can contain pathogens that cause serious diseases like Cholera and Dengue fever. If you are traveling to isolated, rural areas in undeveloped countries, where water is untreated and only available from rivers, lakes and wells, you should use water purification tablets to kill any micro organisms in the water before you drink it.

Be careful where you swim. Many countries pump their raw untreated sewage into the oceans. Usually the sewage is pumped far out to sea, but sometimes sea currents and winds bring it back to shore. Swimming in polluted waters can result in gastroenteritis, eye and ear infections and upper respiratory infections. Any cuts and open wounds that you may have will also become infected.

Be careful of parasites that live in water. Parasitic worms occur in stagnant waters with high concentrations of freshwater snails in tropical regions in Asia, Africa and South America. These tiny creatures penetrate your skin, living in your body, laying their eggs and feeding off your blood, as a parasitic disease known as Bilharzia.

Take care when swimming in rivers or lakes. Choose fast flowing water that is clear and clean to swim in, and watch out for hippos and crocodiles!


Date posted: 21st June, 2011

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