Here are some pro tips to ensure you stay healthy the next time you travel or volunteer internationally.
· Know where the water you are about to drink comes from (home filtration system, a water bottle, directly from the faucet, etc.). Even if non-potable water looks clear, it still can contain single-celled parasites that are invisible to the eye.
· Do not drink anything that has ice in it. This rule holds even in fancy resorts because it’s difficult to guarantee the cleanliness of ice.
· Drinking bottled potable water tends to be better than water filtered at someone’s home or business because filtered water can become ineffective over time if the filter has not been replaced often enough.
· However, always choose recognizable name-brand water bottles for quality assurance. It could be helpful to do a Google search to find which brands are the most reliable in your travel area. This is because some lesser-known companies contain locally filtered water instead of purified water cleaned in a plant. Locally filtered standards can be less stringent, leading to waterborne illness.
· Boiling water needs to be boiled for at least fifteen minutes to kill all contaminants.
· If you are unsure how your water was filtered, or just want some peace of mind, purchase a water bottle that will kill all water impurities with UV light at camping stores or online.
· When it comes to using water while getting ready for the day, place a water bottle directly in the sink. That way, you have to move it in order to brush your teeth or wash your face. This helps you remember to use safe water for teeth brushing and face washing.
· Always keep your mouth closed while taking a shower and washing your face to avoid getting non-potable water in your mouth accidentally.
It can be difficult to remember to keep your mouth closed in the shower at all times though. In order to avoid getting non-potable water in the nose and mouth during a shower, try a travel hack. When showering in unpotable water, avoid putting water directly on their face at all (while still keeping your mouth closed).
To do this, while shampooing, tilt your face back with your back to the water. If any water accidentally gets on your face anyways, wipe it off with a towel.
Then wash your face after showering in the sink using water from a liter-sized bottle of drinking water. That way, if any water gets in your nose or mouth, it will be potable water that does not cause parasites.
To learn more, please check out my book, The New International Volunteer: A Hands-On Guide to Sustainable & Inclusive Development, available here.
The opinions in this article are my own.