Drinking Water Safety When Traveling Abroad

drinking water safety

I have been there, done that–drinking or eating food at someone else’s house or in another country and got the runs from bacteria or microorganisms in the food and/or water. Things we consume that are contaminated can make you sick, dizzy, nauseated, vomit, or have diarrhea. In fact, if you get a disease or sickness that is severe enough, it can be fatal. Here are some facts on drinking water safety and what you can do to help the situation where there may be unclean water for drinking, cooking, or even on or in your food.

Travelers’ diarrhea and other types of diseases, including giardia (from microorganisms) or cholera (from coliform bacteria) can come from unsafe water or food, or from dirty hands after not washing after going to the bathroom.  

Drinking water safety in other countries

I remember my dad telling me a story from when he was a missionary in Mexico and saw a little stand on the side of the road that was serving fresh homemade lemonade. He was glad he did not buy any because when he rounded the corner and looked down the alley he found someone stirring up a new batch of lemonade with a stick in an old crusty-looking bathtub!

Drinking water safety starts with not drinking tap water, alone or in drinks that people make. This includes restaurants that serve you water unless you are sure that the water is from a closed water source. Even water purifiers can have filters that are past their prime and needed to be replaced years ago, actually imbedding more bacteria into the water than if there were no filter at all.

For the best drinking water safety rule, simply buy bottled water that is in a sealed bottle that you open yourself.   Furthermore, drinking water safety means that if you do get purified water, make sure it has been disinfected properly, through boiling, with clean filters that are not expired, or treated with UV or other methods that will guarantee the safety of the water before you drink it.   Make sure the ice you drink also has been made with properly disinfected water or it can melt and mix with your clean water and make you sick. Best to avoid ice altogether.  

Drinking water safety tips

Water can find its way into your food…

Avoid salads - salad lettuce and vegetables may have been washed with contaminated water so can still make you sick.

Drink hot coffee or tea that has been made only with boiled water

Drink pasteurized milk, not any raw or unpasteurized products.  

Avoid fresh juices that may have been mixed (reconstituted) with unclean water.  

Avoid flavored popsicles or ice.

Eat only fruits and vegetables that you have peeled yourself and washed in clean water, unless they are well cooked.  

Avoid fountain drinks

Avoid well water   

Avoid tap water

Drinking water safety when swimming or bathing

It may seem strange to think of bathing or swimming having anything at all to do with drinking water safety, but remember that the water you are swimming or bathing in may also be contaminated, whether it is a shower, tub, river, lake, stream, or from a well. Even collected rain water, which should ideally be fairly clean, may be stored in containers or tanks that are contaminated with oil, tar, feces, chemicals, or a number of other known contaminants. Getting this water into the orifices of your body (eyes, mouth when brushing your teeth, etc.) can be dangerous.  

Drinking water safety includes personal purification devices

Be sure to bring some form of filtered water bottle with you that you can fill up and drink from that will purify it on site. There are special UV pens that can also sterilize bacteria and microorganisms in your cup within seconds (I saw one for sale for $50 at Costco just recently). Also, there are special filtered straws that can remove contaminants as you suck up the water.

All of these vary in price depending on where you shop. Be careful to buy new ones since there is no way to know if a used one has been ‘used up’ already. Also, watch your battery life if you are overseas as there may not be a place to recharge them.

On a last note, be sure to bring some anti-diarrheal medicines with you, and get traveler’s insurance. Once you are using all the rules for drinking water safety, then go and enjoy your trip!


The author of this story is a freelance contributor to National Nutraceuticals’ online news portals, such as Amino Acid Information Center at http://www.aminoacidinformation.com and Vancouver Health News at http://www.VancouverHealthNews.ca.  National Nutraceuticals, Inc. also owns and operates a third health news portal focusing on medicinal mushrooms at http://medicinalmushroominfo.com, plus our newest portal at http://todayswordofwisdom.com.

If you like our news sites and would like to have your own one, contact Zorilla Marketing at http://www.zorillamarketing.com. We specialize in building online news portals and provide content marketing services.



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