Friday, December 16, 2011

What to do if your child drinks bad water

When hiking, drink water that you bring
to the trail, not water found in streams or
ponds along the route.
When coming across a crystal clear stream or pond, children often are tempted to drink from it or splash water on their face. Yet, most backwoods streams are full of bacteria guaranteed to give you a bad tummy ache. A major bacteria baddie in drinking water is Giardia lamblia, which sickens tens of thousands of people every year in the United States. Fortunately, it's not fatal if you're in good health and get immediate medical attention.

To avoid, only drink water you carry in. You also must limit kids from touching local water; if they get it on their hands or face, it can end up in their mouths. If you must drink local water, there are three options: use water purification tablets, boil it, or use a reverse osmosis filter. The last two solutions probably aren't viable on a day hike.

Signs that your children have drunken bad water include stomach cramps, nausea, headaches, and diarrhea. Their body odor also may smell like sulfur. Drinking clean water is the remedy, but ultimately you need to get immediate medical attention.

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.