The water travel guide
With summer just a few short months away, most of us will be looking forward to our annual summer holiday. Whether you are staying here in the UK or travelling further afield, your health and safety is top priority. During the summer months water related accidents and illnesses are at their highest. Here are some of the statistics from Child Safety Europe, tourism and water related injuries.
Water related injuries
- Drowning is the second leading cause of death to children in Europe.
- In Europe, between 14,000 and 47,000 injuries occur during water sports and boating every year.
- The accident rate to UK citizens travelling abroad has doubled in the past four years, with water sports being one of the most common culprits.
Water related illnesses
- Diarrhoea and vomiting.
- Legionnaires’ disease.
- Weil’s disease.
What can I do to stay safe on holiday?
If you are travelling around the UK, you may think that you’d be pretty safe where water is concerned. However there is a surprisingly large variety of harmful bacteria found in lakes, canals and rivers in the UK that can cause infections. Weil’s disease, also known as leptospirosis, is a bacterial infection that is spread by animal urine, especially rats.
Swallowing water that is contaminated or getting it into the bloodstream through a cut, will within a few weeks of exposure causes mild flu like symptoms such as headaches and chills; in extreme cases causing life threatening problems such as internal bleeding and organ failure. There are parts of the world where leptospirosis is widespread, although it is less common in the UK, there are around 40 cases reported in England and Wales each year.
Other bugs found in water can be caused by sewage contamination; e.coli and cryptosporidium are spread through swallowing water from lakes, streams and rivers. Never drink from streams, even if the water looks clear. Always wash your hands after paddling and avoid swallowing water while swimming. In the UK water related incidents rise dramatically during the summer months. This can be anything from boating to swimming accidents.
There is also an increase in jellyfish stings and hypothermia. If you are not used to swimming in cold water the Outdoor Swimming Society recommend that you wear a wetsuit. Don’t ever jump into cold water, wade in slowly so your body can gradually get used to the temperature. Swim close to the shore and take warm clothes with you to put on afterwards, even in the summer you will feel cold getting out.
Jellyfish stings can cause painful swelling, itching and a rash; if you get stung, remove remaining tentacles with tweezers and apply an ice pack. Try to avoid swimming in jellyfish infested areas, their numbers are on the rise in UK waters, although they aren’t dangerous their sting is unpleasant and it will definitely spoil your day out. If you are going abroad this summer, being mindful about water is incredibly important, especially if you are visiting the tropics or subtropics.
Taking precautions such as drinking bottled water, not swallowing water in the shower and not using tap water to clean your teeth are just some of things we can do to keep ourselves safe and healthy abroad. Other things to are avoid salads and fruit as they may have been washed in contaminated water, if you do eat these things peel them or wash them thoroughly yourself in bottled water. Ice cubes are also a no-no, unless they have been made with bottled or purified water.
If you are unfortunate to get diarrhoea it is important to keep hydrated. For mild/moderate diarrhoea it is advisable to take antidiarrhoeal agents such as Imodium. If you start experiencing severe abdominal pain, with blood and mucus seek medical attention.
Legionnaires disease is a serious lung infection contracted through breathing in contaminated water droplets. It can be picked up from ponds, rivers and lakes. Sometimes, although rare, it can be contracted through spas, sprinkler systems and air conditioning systems. There is an incubation period of around one week before flu like symptoms appear. If you suspect legionnaires’ you will need a course of antibiotics, so get to a doctor as soon as possible.
Remember, by taking simple precautions wherever you go, you will be fine.