What To Do After Drinking Contaminated Water On Holiday? (Don’t Panic)

So, you are having a nice trip to nature, or you are somewhere on holiday in a country with poor hygiene standards. You feel so thirsty because the weather is scorching and you are in search of some water source to drink.

You have found one, and because you were so thirsty, you didn’t even think about the fact that the water might be contaminated. So, you have quenched your thirst and happily continued your trip.

The same day evening you feel strange. You feel like something is wrong, and you are in pain and on top of it long wanted holiday is ruined. In this article, I will share with you some tips on what to do after drinking contaminated water.

I bet everyone has experienced the “beauty” of being poisoned either by food or water at least once in their life. Regardless of what was the cause of intoxication, symptoms in lots of cases are very similar; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and chills. I am sure you are very familiar with those.

Your organism is on the way to recovery, but still very weak.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that the content of this post is not intended to be a substitute for medical professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always consult your health with a relevant professional. Therefore, the website owner does not accept any responsibility for damage caused by applying these tips without consulting with a medical professional.

Where And What Water Did You Drink?

First of all, you should identify the contaminated source and here is why.

The correct identification of the area and the source of water will make it easier to establish the potential health hazard and identify the pathogen.

I have created a couple of guiding questions and examples of possible answers to ensure you have correctly identified the source.

Where was the source located? (city, village, nature)

An obvious question would be where did I drink water during that day. Make sure to list all the places where you have drunk any water or any other liquid.

What is the environment around the source like? (Industrial area, forest, farm, local market, mud)

Try to recall the environment around the place, every detail will help. Have you seen any industrial buildings, or maybe there was some farm nearby? This is important to understand as it will help you to identify the severity of poisoning.

What climate zone it is? (Hot, cold, mild, tropical, humid)

This one is pretty simple. Obviously humid and hot environment creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

Were there any animals nearby? If so, what animal? (bugs, insects, cows, dogs)

We all know that animals and especially insects are carriers of all sorts of viruses. They might easily contaminate water in the area.

What kind of a water source, was it? (Mountain spring, river, well, tap, lake)

The mountain spring is less likely to be a place where you can poison yourself, but for example, tap water especially when you don’t know the original source and the state of the plumbing system is more likely to be contaminated.

These are just guiding questions, and apart from them you can try to recall and think of other small details that might help you to understand the cause and severity better.

What Dangerous Substances Might Be Present In Water?


Let’s have a look at a possible reason for the poisoning. First and apparent causes that come to my mind are bacteria and viruses.

Unfortunately, not all bacteria die in the process of boiling. Let me describe some of them just for clarity.

Vibrio Cholerae – this bacteria is responsible for the disease called cholera in a human’s body.

E. Coli – these remain for a long period of time in the soil, water, and fecal. They are able to survive in a drier environment and reproduce in food, especially milk. Quickly die in boiling water and when exposed to disinfection.

Salmonella – can survive in a dried faecal for more than 2.5 years. The virus dies when heated to 55 °C after an hour and a half or 60 °C after 12 minutes. This virus doesn’t die when frozen.

This is a nice mix, isn’t it? But, as you know, there are still many other bacteria and viruses.

You probably understand that to avoid any severe troubles you should filter and disinfect the water. I suggest you check out my other article about the portable water filters to ensure you have safe water anywhere with you.

Alternatively you can take a pitcher filter with you. However, the issue here is that these do not filter bacteria out.

Let’s have a look at other things that might poison you.

Heavy metals – these cannot be removed from water by simple boiling, and they can accumulate in the body, which can result in really unpleasant health issues after some time.

You are more likely to find heavy metals in water polluted by industrial waste.

Sodium and Potassium – Excessive amount of these 2 compounds gives a salty or bitter taste to water. The taste depends on the prevailing type of impurities: chlorides, sulfates, or fluorides.

What To Do After Poisoning?


The obvious advice is that you shouldn’t wait until you get better and visit a doctor immediately. When you are abroad on holiday and stay in a hotel, you should directly ask the staff for help. They will be able to provide you necessary support and call the ambulance if needed.

Another thing I do, whenever I am traveling, is that I have a pack of activated charcoal with me.

Activated charcoal is the excellent first aid. It can bind toxins in the human body and eliminate them through the intestine. I prefer charcoal because of its broad application when you need to detox your body not only after the water poisoning.

You can read more information about the activated charcoal in this article on WebMD.

Also, you can also try to induce vomiting to empty the content of the stomach.

The recovery after poisoning occurs gradually. Typical intoxication symptoms such as vomiting, fever, loose stools help you to destroy and remove toxins, parasites, and bacteria out of your body.

After such detox, you experience a lack of appetite, residual pain in the abdomen and feel weak overall.

You should be conscious of the food you are eating after the intoxication. This should be light meals that won’t overload your body as it is still fighting remaining toxins.

Even if you don’t adhere to a healthy diet, the first few days after poisoning you need to ensure to take care of what you are eating. You need to consult with a doctor on what is allowed and strictly stick to it for the period of time.

Prevention Rocks


This being said, I strongly suggest you to avoid drinking any water you don’t know where it’s coming from, especially on holiday abroad.

In case this has already happened, don’t wait until you get better and seek medical help. Once you are in the hands of medics just let them know everything you can about the water source. Questions mentioned above should guide you.

This will help them to establish potential severity and cause, but you probably won’t avoid a blood analysis anyway.

You can also take activated charcoal as the first aid as the charcoal bind all toxins. However, if you decide to do so, you need to let a doctor know about this fact.

You can prevent yourself even further by purchasing one of the bottles with a filter system or take a pitcher filter with you. However, note that those might not remove all bacteria, so you are not fully protected. To completely eliminate all bacteria you can get a UV purificator or you can try boiling a water. Although, boiling won’t eliminate 100% of bacteria either.

The best option of course when you are on holiday is to buy safe bottled water and don’t risk anything. You don’t want to ruin your holiday with the situation like this.

Share your experience and tips what you do in cases like this in the comment section below. If you have found this article helpful, do not hesitate to share it with your friends on social media.

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14 thoughts on “What To Do After Drinking Contaminated Water On Holiday? (Don’t Panic)”

  1. Thank you for the wonderful article, it’s fantastic to get a better understanding as to why I have always been told to drink bottled water when travelling. I use bottled water to brush my teeth and to wash any fruits. When I buy water and make sure it’s in a sealed bottle. I wasn’t always sure why I was told to do this when I could see the locals drinking the water from the river. But after reading your article I would rather be safe than sorry and I am certainly glad I did.

  2. Thanks for a great article which was very thorough and you have given some really good advice. I have suffered from food poisoning before and it was really awful, I didn’t know about the benefits of taking charcoal too so thank you for that information.

    1. Hi Helen,

      Yes charcoal is great a great first aid when I poison myself whether with food or water. It is also a great way to filter a water when you don’t have any filter or access to the shop. Simply crush a charcoal in a piece of cloth and let water run through it in the bottle and you have relatively safe water to drink.


  3. With all of the dangers in our holiday destinations, prvention is our only action. Many of us have been the victims of bad water and it isn’t a fun ride at all. Mine lasted a full year before I was finally fully recovered.

    1. Hi Stewart,

      Wow one year recovery is quite a long. It must have been something very serious. Hope everything is okay now and next time make sure to get only a safe water.

  4. This is a really helpful article, I think most of us worry about contaminated water, particularly when traveling. I like the advice about buying bottled water but do you think this is always safe? I’ve heard stories of bottles of water being filled from taps in some countries and then resealed by heating the cap. Do you think this is a risk?

    1. Hi Amy,

      Good question. I think bottled water is quite a roulette as well. However, I wouldn’t worry about buying a bottled water of a known brand and stores if its available in a destination. Another option you can do is to get yourself a bottle with a filter. In this case, you only need to ensure to have a water with no bacteria in it as those won’t filter them out, so the combination of the bottle with a filter and boiling will ensure that you have a safe water.


  5. I went to India years ago for work. I was very careful. I even boiled my water to brush my teeth. Then we had a pot-luck at the office I was working at the time. My team brought food from home, wonderful! Then I remember one of the team members used a liquid sauce with mint. Almost within the hour, I was sick. Lesson learned. It was tap water. Great article on understanding what you are putting in your mouth, it can come from anywhere. Thanks for the article.

  6. Really good article that i’m sure a lot of people will find useful. I never knew about the charcoal and how beneficial it can be to have some with you.

    Thanks for the info!

  7. Eugen,
    This is great information. My sister got Scarlet Fever when she drank some water in Turkey. You don’t know if the water has been filtered or is bad when you are drinking abroad. This was before bottled water.
    Going to a Dr. when you first start feeling bad is the best thing.
    Do you think that having bottled water has helped with this.

    1. Hi Johny,

      Sorry to hear that. It is strange because from my experience I have never had an issue with water in Turkey. I thought it is relatively safe at least at resorts for travelers. I mean Turkey cannot afford to have a reputation for bad water because there are so many tourists every year. Thanks for sharing, I will be more conscious next time as well.


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