In this blog post, I am answering the final question asked by Vicki from a previous blog post regarding the safety of the water from the drinking fountains on the Camino trail.
Wherever you travel, always research the quality and sources of local water and food. The risk of travelers’ diarrhea varies depending on the geographic region, and it is contaminated food rather than water that is the most common cause. Traveling in Southern Europe (which Spain is a part of), the risk of contracting travelers’ diarrhea varies from 15 to 20%. (click here to access the Government of Canada site info).
I always ask myself these 4 questions before I travel:
1. What is my overall health and constitution? What is the sensitivity of my digestive system, allergies and level of fitness? Do I have any health concerns that I need to plan extra precautions for? Do I need to visit my family physician to validate my concerns?
2. Do I need to visit a travel clinic? I evaluate the health and safety risks of traveling in a specific country and then decide. I buy good travel books and use the internet extensively in my research. If I decide I need to visit the travel clinic, I then validate with the doctor my travel precautions and prevention strategy for the trip. If I don’t visit a travel clinic, I still document my travel strategy (which always includes a health travel kit).
3. Based on the outcome of 1 & 2 above I deploy my health travel strategy:
a. Get all necessary vaccines
b. Procure all the necessary medications and water treatment items
c. I organize a travel health kit
d. I review the areas I will be traveling in and note where I will need to be extra vigilant.
4. Document your emergency plan to use if you do get ill. For example immunization records, proof of insurance, contact information (see link above for travel health kit). I was on business travel in Switzerland when one of our team contracted the Norwalk virus and spent 2 days in the hospital. You always need to be prepared, and have the proper contact and insurance information.
I have traveled in Southern Europe many times, including Spain and never visited a travel health clinic or took special precautions since the quality and sources of water and food are reliable. When you are traveling in rural areas where the source and quality of water and food look questionable and you have doubts … treat it, boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
I plan on drinking the fountain water along the Camino Trail, since it is part of the pilgrim experience. My plan is:
- I have developed a travel health strategy as outlined above.
- I will read the travel information about the area and decide whether I will drink from the local water sources that day.
- I will always read and follow the signs at each fountain which indicate the water quality:
- Fuente de Agua = Water Fountain
- Agua Potable = Drinking Water
- Non potable = Not Drinking Water
- Agua Sin Garantia Sanitaria = Water Without Health Guarantee
5. A tip on a blog suggests always plan your water carefully, ensure you have more water than just enough to get to the next fountain. They had planned on filling up at a fountain and had used the last of their water. When they arrived at the fountain, it was dry. They had a long thirsty walk to the next water supply.
6. I will enjoy the history and beauty of the fountains along the Camino de Santiago. Remember many of these fountains were built for the convenience of the pilgrims along the trail. Check out the great image of a pilgrim drinking from a water fountain, pictured above.
It is the personal responsibility of every traveler to protect their health on their travel adventures. I have traveled extensively and in high risk areas but have been well prepared and took the necessary precautions and preventions as listed above. To date I have not contracted traveler’s diarrhea or any other serious health outcomes. Kudos to the many travel clinics and doctors, travel writers, government web sites and fellow travelers who have recorded their experiences on the internet.
I’d love to hear about your experience! Feel free to leave a link back to your own blog too if you have one, via the commentluv feature here on the site.