6 Reasons You’re Getting Sick Traveling Abroad
Afraid of getting sick while traveling to another country? You’re not alone.
How many times have you heard the phrase: “Don’t drink the tap water!” when prepping for an international trip? This warning — whether prompted by a friend, colleague, or some blog post you found on the internet — does not go unwarranted.
So why do we hear this phrase so often? What could be wrong with the tap water? Well, in many countries around the world, the water that runs out of the faucet and into the sinks of millions of homes, hostels, and hotels is riddled with bacteria, protozoa, hard metals, and sometimes viruses.
The most common disease you can catch? Travelers’ diarrhea.
Travelers’ diarrhea (TD) is the most predictable travel-related illness. Attack rates range from 30% to 70% of travelers, depending on the destination and season of travel. -Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018)
Although common, TD is avoidable if you’re aware of how it’s caused. That’s why we’ve outlined the top 6 Reasons you’ll attract TD and how to avoid it.
1. Drinking the Tap Water
This one’s pretty obvious, but if you’re traveling to a country in which the tap water is contaminated, you’re more than likely to get sick. There are plenty of water filters on the market, from water bottles with built-in filtration to universally-adapting sink attachments.
Another solution: bottled water. Perhaps the most common remedy at the moment, bottled water is your safest bet when seeking purified water. However, remain cautious of where you purchase your Dasani— it’s not uncommon for locals to collect discarded plastic bottles, refill with tap water, reseal them, and resell to unknowing tourists.
2. Washing Your Hands
If you wouldn’t drink the tap water, you definitely shouldn’t wash your hands in it. Think of all the things you touch with your hands: your food, your face, your friends. And if you’re a nail-biter? Forget it, you’re getting sick.
Be cautious of where you wash your hands, and always have a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby. Rinse, lather with soap, and sanitize.
3. Brushing Your Teeth
Again, if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t stick it in your mouth. It’s a habit for us to run our toothbrushes under the tap, dollop on some minty-fresh toothpaste, and scrub our molars. We don’t think twice about it — we’ve been doing this since we were toddlers.
However, take the extra precaution and use bottled water. If you have a water filter, bring it along and use that. Whatever you do, try to break the habit of sticking the brush under the faucet. You’ll thank us later.
Most people don’t think twice about opening their mouth in the shower. And, hey, sometimes you get thirsty when you’re shampooing.
Well, in the same way you wouldn’t keep your eyes wide open while sudsing up, you should close your mouth too. Keep your eyes free of soap and keep your stomach free of bacteria-riddled water.
5. Produce Washed in Tap Water
Ever felt sick after eating at a restaurant? Most of us will blame it on food-poisoning: uncooked meat, raw eggs, or “rat droppings in the food.” (Just kidding, we hope.) However, the most common cause of sickness related to food when traveling is caused not by “food poisoning” but by water poisoning. Or, in other words, the food was washed in contaminated tap water.
Do your best to avoid dishes with raw fruits or vegetables. If you’re buying your own produce, wash it yourself. You’d never know it, but the cabbage on your authentic Mexican carne asada tacos — not the cooked meat — could be the reason you’re hunched over the toilet.
6. Ice Cubes
Nothing sounds better on a sweltering hot day than a refreshing glass of ice-cold water. Or, a blended strawberry margarita, if you’re on that kind of vacation.
Be cautious of anything with ice cubes. If you’re steering clear of drinking the local tap water, you should do the same for the frozen stuff. Otherwise, it better be one heckofa margarita.