Water Safety and Wilderness Medicine for Senior Travelers

Apr 23rd, 2010 | By | Category: Senior Travel

The Independent Traveler shares this information on drinking water safety when traveling out of the country: 

Nothing ruins a good trip like getting sick — and we’re not talking about a few extra bathroom stops. Contaminated drinking water is one of the leading sources of health problems for travelers, and can cause anything from mild gastrointestinal distress to serious bacterial diseases.  The most common cause of water-borne illness is bacteria, such as E. coli, cholera and salmonella, but illness can also be caused by protozoa (including giardia and cryptosporidium), viruses (like hepatitis A, polio and rotavirus) and chemical pollutants.  In many cases, travelers become ill simply because the pathogens in the water are foreign to their immune systems, while locals have adapted to the water supply and can drink it without problems.  The best way to protect yourself is to avoid local tap water and instead seek out bottled water; when that’s not available, boiling tap water generally kills most micro-organisms, and there are a number of good water filters and purification tablets that can easily be stowed in your carry-on. 

Even in Mexico I had all my tour group wipe off bottle tops carefully with a clean cloth before drinking.  In factories they spray water on the bottles to clean them and this water may be contaminated as well.  You just can’t be too careful with drinking water. 

Here is more information on how to travel and drink safely.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a site worth reading called Water Disinfection for Travelers.  The portion on Field Techniques for Water Treatment should be required reading for anyone traveling to a third world country.  Even doctors take these precautions. I know as I traveled on four Christian Medical and Dental Society groups to third world nations.  

There are special filter water bottles available that filter out the “bad bugs” and make the water potable.  Here is a site that carries the top six water filter bottles. Most have a colloidal silver filter.  Colloidal Silver is a powerful, natural antibiotic and preventative against infections. Acting as a catalyst, it disables the enzyme that one-celled bacteria, viruses and fungi need for their oxygen metabolism. They suffocate without corresponding harm occurring to human enzymes or parts of the human body chemistry. The result is the destruction of disease-causing organisms in the body and in the food.  Not everybody is a believer of the use of colloidal silver, so be sure to consult your physician before using one of these. 

Adventure Doc features Erik McLaughlin MD, MPH (Master’s in Public Health) who wanted to make a resource for people looking to learn more about travel and expedition medicine.  He also wanted a way to facilitate exchange of information related to senior traveler’s health and wilderness medicine.   

Here you will find a study guide for people doing the ASTMH (American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene) course or the ISTM (International Society of Travel Medicine) body of knowledge.  It contains some good, basic information on senior travel and wilderness medicine.  

Dr. McLaughlin really liked the weird parasites and disease of the tropics. He also loved to travel and see remote places. How about you?  The good Dr. leaves us with…”Thanks for visiting! This has some of my ramblings about travel and expedition medicine. Hopefully, it helps people be adventurous and healthy at the same time!”  jeb



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