People in developed nations often take much for granted. Their lives are simple in many ways they do not even think about. For many people in the United States, people don’t worry about filtering and boiling their water before they eat it. They do not worry about only eating fresh produce that has a thick peel to protect it. They also do not worry about keeping their mouths tightly shut in the shower to make sure they do not ingest contaminated water. In other countries, though, this is normal behavior. In many developed countries, extensive water testing eliminates the need for taking numerous precautions when dealing with water, whether showering, drinking, using it to cook and more.
In less developed countries such as places in Central America like Guatemala, Southeast Asian countries like India or many African countries, clean water is a luxury resource. These countries usually do not have the governmental funds for free water testing for citizens, meaning citizens learn to deal with contaminated water and water borne illnesses as part of daily life. This can be especially difficult for Americans traveling to different countries because they are not used to taking the precautions that many locals do. For example, a backpacker from America who is backpacking through Guatemala will probably stay at a hostel during part of their trip. In the hostel, they must be careful in the shower so as not to get any water into their mouths. This means keeping the lips clamped shut and showering while facing away from the stream of water. It also means brushing their teeth with bottled water or washing their face with bottled water or keeping their lips clamped shut here too. If a traveler fails to do this, chances are they can get uncomfortably ill with symptoms like chills, fever, nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting and more. This can ruin quite a few days of travel and compounded over numerous days exposed to contaminated water, a traveler could effectively be sick most of their trip.
In many countries, people rely on microbiological testing to provide them with access to safe food and water, but as mentioned, this is a luxury that many people do not experience in less developed countries. A good way to keep safe when traveling abroad to less developed countries is to be aware of what is safe versus what is unsafe. For example, not ingesting tap water is a big, important component. This means brushing your teeth with bottled water and taking special care to keep water out of your mouth in the shower. Additionally, buy bottled water instead of drinking from the tap.
Also, it is smart to avoid eating raw food like fruits and vegetables particularly if they do not have a peel that would have protected them from becoming contaminated by bacteria in water. Rather than eating an apple, a banana or watermelon would be a much safer option. Additionally, porous vegetables like lettuce are generally recommended against in favor of more dense greens like cabbage.
Finally, be particularly aware of any bodies of water that you swim in like lakes or rivers. Often times there are bacteria like E.Coli in water that can make you ill.