Water

In may parts of the world tap water is not safe to drink. Just because people there do drink it does not mean you want to. You cannot build up a tolerance to bacteria, and neither can they. So, let's start with water.

The nasty critters in bad water are not killed by freezing, so if the water is bad so is the ice. Be careful, even in some “nice” places to order drinks without ice to be safe. Though your kids won't be drinking any, for the record the amount of alcohol in a mixed drink won't make good water out of bad. Unless you are going way way off the track, you won't be spending much time with water filters, iodine tablets, boiling or the like.

Instead, we'll be talking bottled water. Buy it in a place that looks clean enough to believe the water may be clean too. Make sure you buy something sealed, and that the seal is one that was not opened previously (we've had the unfortunate experience of seeing water bottles being filled from a tap in Bangkok and the screw on cap just replaced. Indeed, an organization called the “Natural Resources Defense Council” claims that 25% of the bottled water sold in the U.S. comes from municipal water treatment plants).

If you are unsure which brand to buy, perhaps you've seen a brand served aboard the plane, or available in your hotel. There is no guarantee that that brand is OK, but since the hotel and the airline would likely prefer not to give their guests stomach viruses, they should be choosing a clean source for their bottled water.

Water too bad to drink should not be used for brushing teeth. Your kids, if they brush their own teeth at home will need a lot of help to not automatically do the same overseas with the tap water. A cup filled with clean water being handy helps, as well as a parent there to step in when the reflex to turn on the tap triggers.

Water that is clean enough to wash hands but still not safe to drink should not be used to wash one's face (bacteria will be more than happy to get inside your child through her eyes, ears, nose as well as the mouth). One of the greatest ways around this nowadays is the hand cleaning gel you can get in most drugstores or supermarkets. Have lots of it with you and use it a lot. Our kids think it is cool the way the gel evaporates as you rub it in and are happy to use it before meals.

If you will be transferring planes in an unfamiliar airport, be sure to ask for a bottle of water (or for the cabin attendant to refill our own bottle) before landing. The water may be of poor quality in the intermediate airport, or purchasing it may require a foreign currency, or coins, that you do not have with you. Even if you arrive on time, there is no guarantee that your next flight will depart on time.

Finally, keep in mind that kids, especially small kids, can get whacked hard by germs too weak to take down a grown up. So, when in doubt, think bottled water.

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