Tips for preventing waterborne disease when travelling abroad


Waterborne diseases are prevalent worldwide and can range from mild inconveniences to severe health threats. Contaminated water sources may harbour various pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites, leading to illnesses such as diarrhoea, typhoid, hepatitis A, and cholera.

While some destinations may have reliable water treatment systems, others may pose significant risks to travellers.

Choosing safe drinking water

One of the simplest ways to avoid waterborne illnesses is to consume safe drinking water. Opt for sealed bottled water from reputable brands or boil tap water vigorously for at least one minute to kill harmful microorganisms. If sealed bottled water is cooled in a bucket of iced water, be careful you are not inadvertently drinking some drops of bucket water remaining on the container. Additionally, consider using bottled water for brushing your teeth to minimise exposure to potential contaminants.

Utilising purification methods

In situations where safe drinking water is scarce, purification tablets or filtering systems can be lifesavers. Purification tablets containing chlorine dioxide effectively eliminate a wide range of pathogens, although they may require several minutes to dissolve fully before you can safely consume. Filtering systems can be portable or permanent, and offer an efficient way to remove particles and microorganisms from water. For optimal protection, consider using purification tablets followed by filtration for added assurance.

Practicing proper hand hygiene

Hand hygiene is paramount in preventing the spread of diseases, particularly after using the restroom or handling contaminated surfaces. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or touching your face. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to disinfect your hands effectively.

Beware of ice and ice pops

While indulging in local cuisine and beverages is part of the travel experience, exercise caution with flavoured ice pops and drinks containing ice cubes, as they may be prepared with untreated water. Opt for factory-sealed beverages to minimise the risk of contamination, ensuring that the bottles show no signs of tampering.

For more health and security advice, Healix offers a suite of e-learning courses for your mobile workforce, helping them to take the right steps to keep themselves safe abroad. 

Ella Aldridge
Senior Medical Risk Analyst
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