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Is it Safe to Drink the Water

Can I drink tap water while abroad?

Not all overseas destinations will have safe or chlorinated tap water available. It’s best to check the availability before you travel.

In areas without chlorinated tap water or where sanitation is poor, you can make water safe by boiling, chemically disinfecting or filtering it.

“It’s smart to invest in a small electric heating coil before you travel so that you always have the option to boil water,” advised former West Virginia University Extension Specialist Litha Sivanandan.

Boiling water is the safest and most reliable method to have safe drinking water. Boiling water vigorously for one minute destroys bacterial, parasitic and viral causes of diarrhea. Refer to the CDC’s list of proper water treatment methods and potential hazards for more information.

If boiling isn’t an option, try buying or packing bottled water.

“When buying bottled beverages, make sure the cap is fully sealed,” Sivanandan said. “If the seal is not intact, the bottle may have been refilled and could be contaminated.”

If you’re craving flavor and energy, carrying fruit or vegetable reconstituting powders along with sealed bottled water allows travelers to make their own juice. However, do not use unsafe water to reconstitute juice from frozen concentrate or powder.

Sivanandan recommends looking for the words, “reverse osmosis, distilled or filtered through an absolute one micron or smaller filter” on bottled beverage labels, in order to avoid the Cryptosporidium parasite, which can lead to gastrointestinal illness.

“If you’re traveling somewhere tropical, it’s hard to resist fresh fruits, but be cautious,” she said. “Remember to use only safe water to rinse fresh fruits and vegetables. This might mean resorting to bottled water for rinsing.”

Bottled and carbonated drinks

Alcoholic beverages are typically deemed safe for consumption because water is boiled during the brewing process of beer. Boiled water is also required for fermentation of beer and wine. The high alcohol content of hard liquors also kills any harmful microorganisms.

Commercially prepared cans or bottles of carbonated drinks, steaming hot (175° F or hotter) tea or coffee and any pasteurized drinks are safe to consume. However, condensed water on the outside of cans and bottles may be contaminated and containers should be wiped clean before drinking from them.

Common practices such as consuming iced beverages, drinking from fountains and brushing teeth with tap water should also be avoided.

“It’s a force of habit to turn on the tap and expect clean, safe water,” Sivanandan said. “By thinking about water safety before you leave for your trip, you can start to train the mind to be more cautious.”

View more information from the CDC on bottled water and beverage safety.