Traveller’s Tummy Troubles: Strategies for Avoiding Contaminated Water Sickness

by Julia on December 29, 2015

Contaminated water can be found in all sorts of places such as a local swimming pool or lake. Local people are more likely to be aware of their immediate environments and the risks.  However, when traveling abroad and unfamiliar with local customs and new environments, there is an increased likelihood of coming across contaminated water and getting sick because of it.  Here are a few strategies to keep you free of tummy troubles and sickness.

Don’t Swallow the Water

You may decide to swim in a hotel or resort pool, assuming the chlorine in the body of water frees it of all germs but that is not necessarily true.  Chlorine does not kill germs instantly.  It’s highly likely that you’re swimming in contaminated water despite the diligence of staff and assuredness of hotel managers.  Swallowing even a tiny amount of contaminated water can make you sick.

Shower Before and After

Diarrhea is the most common recreational water ailment but you may also contract skin, ear, and wound infections.  Every person carries a small amount of fecal material with them upon entering a body of water.  To protect others, take a shower or rinse off before entering.  And to be especially protective of yourself, take a shower upon exiting a public pool.  Pay added attention to your hands, which touch your belongings, food, and mouth.

Check the Weather

Weather influences the levels of bacteria in bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, and streams.  On hot days or those following rain, the amount of bacteria rises.  You don’t have to avoid public pools and lakes, but be aware of weather patterns and take added precaution.

Buy Bottled Water

If you’re in another country, it’s best to purchase bottled water for drinking, brushing your teeth and cooking.  Water treatment, sanitation, and hygienic facilities may be inadequate in some parts of the world, even those hosting large resorts and tourist sites.  While locals are accustomed, foreigners may be unable to consume water for drinking or properly digest prepared foods.  Some prefer to bring along a portable water filter when traveling.  Don’t make assumptions related to small amounts of water.  For example, a small amount used to brush your teeth is enough to get you sick.  Similarly, using contaminated water to cleanse your contact lenses can lead to infection.

Stay Out of the Hot Tub and Spa

Spas and hot tubs are attractive resort amenities, but it’s safest to avoid them.  It’s difficult to maintain proper chlorine and bromine levels in tubs and spas.  The water temperature depletes the concentration of the solutions.  Swimmer’s ear and hot tub rashes develop due to time spent in tubs and spa.  The same is true for water fun parks and public bathing areas.

Be a Mindful Diner

Exploring different foods and trying out a variety of restaurants is an important part of most people’s holidays.  Unfortunately, you must be extra careful or you may get sick as a result.  Seek out restaurants with a good reputation locally and those frequented by other travelers.  Avoid eating raw foods, salads, fruits, and unpeeled vegetables. In America, street vendors are highly revered by foodies, yet in other countries, foreigners must be wary when approaching food carts or vans.  Moreover, avoid dairy products, undercooked meat and fish, and toppings and sauces – even bottled ones on tabletops.

Seek Over-the-Counter Treatments

There is no known vaccine to treat ‘traveller’s diarrhea,’ but a few drugs can help reduce your chances of getting sick in the event of contaminated water or food ingestion.   Prophylactic antibiotics prevent diarrhea, but pose a number of issues and may trigger adverse reactions.  Antibiotics are not effective in fighting parasites and viruses.  Capsules filled with lactobacilli can be helpful and safe to give to children. Capsules can be opened and poured into drinks for easier ingestion.

Bring Sports Bars and Vitamins

 Traveling is exciting but usually includes odd schedules that throw off your body.  Growing accustomed to new schedules along with fighting bouts of lethargy can lower the body’s immune system.  That’s why it’s important to maintain a level of general nutrition.  Bring along sports bars that have a high concentration of calories and protein.  Also, bring along vitamins and supplements, such as iron, that your body needs to maintain regularity.

Traveling is a pleasure but you don’t want your body to take a turn for the worse.  Avoid contaminated water, be mindful of hygienic routines, and stay vigilant about what you eat.



Robert has been involved in the water purification and filtration industry for over 20 years and is well versed in drinking water issues locally and around the world. He has a business that leads the way for portable water filters and purifiers.

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