Is running water on holiday safe to drink?

In hot conditions, we can all get a little thirsty. In fact, one of the most relieving moments on a holiday can be gulping down an ice cold glass of water after a hot walk back from the beach or a long journey. However, running water can be a danger in a foreign country, which could lead to your having to make a travel accident compensation claim due to illness.

Could drinking running water abroad result in a holiday mishap?

Yes and no. Running water in foreign countries does have the potential to cause illness. Although most of mainland Europe (such as France, Spain and Germany) and North America are generally deemed to be safe, the water in regions further afield can be hazardous. Areas of Asia and South and Central America use different systems to filter their running water, meaning that different chemicals can be present in the tap water.

Children and the elderly tend to be more vulnerable to illness and infection from running water, with their immune systems often weaker and unable to fight off the bacteria present. The most common illnesses from drinking foreign water tend to be diarrhoea and sickness, but in extreme cases typhoid and dysentery can be problems.

How can I avoid a holiday illness from running water?

Although some running water can be safe, it’s best to avoid drinking from the tap when possible. There are also other precautions that can be taken:

  • Carry bottled water – The safest way to consume water when abroad is to drink filtered bottled water. Try to stick to trusted brands, but all official mineral waters/filtered waters are subject to strict filtration regulations, making them much safer than liquid from taps. Also, be sure to steer clear of street vendors. Although not all are selling unsafe water, some actually bottle tap water to make a quick profit. It may save a little bit of your holiday money to purchase a cheap bottle, but it could put you at risk of a holiday mishap.
  • Avoid ice where possible – An icy drink can be refreshing, but always check that ice is made using filtered/bottled water. Most bars/restaurants abroad will use tap water to make ice cubes, making them just as dangerous as a glass of water.
  • Be careful with fruit – The bulk of fruit is water, meaning that some chemicals from the water can make their way into tasty treats. Try to avoid eating too much of particularly watery fruits, such as watermelon.

For free, no-obligation advice about your holiday mishap, call Accident Advice Helpline on 0800 689 0500 or 0333 500 0993 from a mobile phone.

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