Don’t Drink The Water (Without Taking Precautions)
May 7, 2012 by Tim Young
A lot of folks believe that finding water in the wild is an easy thing to do, and it is in most of America’s climates.
I recently had a talk with Wallace Streete, Absolute Rights’ resident survival expert, about my trip to Cambodia a few years ago. He just got back from the same area and had a good laugh at me when I told him what I had done. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with Streete in which I didn’t learn something. This time was no different. After we finished talking, I wrote down what I learned because I knew I had to share it with you.
Where most people make mistakes is by both underestimating their environment and the way they purify what they need to drink. I certainly did, and I hope that you can learn from what I did.
As you know, water is one of the most critical things that we need for survival. The human body needs only 2 quarts a day to survive. That number might seem low, because we consume a lot of water and liquids in general all day long, but that is the baseline that we need to stay alive.
I personally suffered from dehydration and almost had heat stroke at one point in my life. On a trip to Cambodia just a few years ago, I was suffering through 110 degree weather and 100 percent humidity. I’m from Washington, D.C. We don’t get heat like that, and we have air conditioning to get relief on hot days.
But in Cambodia? Shocker! There wasn’t regular A/C.
I was drinking water at what I thought was a regular pace until I came down with flu-like symptoms. I was cold — that’s right, freezing cold in the middle of a 99-degree evening — and then I started to get dizzy.
Before I passed out, I chugged as much water as I could get my hands on, which I was told later saved me from heat stroke.
What I didn’t think about in the middle of that chugging — because, frankly, I wasn’t thinking — were all the bacteria and bugs in the water. I woke up in the morning feeling groggy from the dehydration, followed by an immediate sharp pain in my stomach.
Over the remaining two weeks of my trip, I ran to the bathroom constantly. You can go ahead and assume what was going through my body at that point; it wasn’t pretty. All in all, I lost about 12 pounds from the runs over the remainder of my trip. I wasn’t cured until I returned to the United States and took a very basic, and free, antibiotic that my doctor gave me.
I wanted to share that story with you to make three very important points:
- Always be prepared. I was not. I wasn’t drinking enough water to begin with, and I didn’t have a very basic antibiotic that cured what could have easily killed me. The kicker was that it was such a common antibiotic that it was literally free. If things head south, you may not have access to antibiotics like the one I was given. They certainly didn’t have them in Cambodia.
- Pay attention to your environment.I certainly didn’t. As Americans, we take a lot of things for granted, including air conditioning, a decent climate and clean water. I stupidly assumed that I was going to have these luxuries when I went to Cambodia. Yes, now I realize how stupid I was. It is critical that you know what you are getting into and where you are going to need to go in the case of an emergency. If you don’t, you’ll be in trouble like I was.
- Always make sure the water you drink is purified. I don’t want to recount the stern lecture I got from my doctor after my trip. I also don’t want to recount what I suffered through throughout my time in Southeast Asia. I literally would have died had I not had that basic prescription. I was losing 6 pounds a week. Now granted, it gave me that swimsuit body that I wanted, but I was on the way to the grave.
What’s the bottom line? If you drink bad water, you can die very quickly. You really can’t trust any of the sources of water in the wild that you’ll have. It is critical that you purify whatever water you put into your body. And it’s easy. There are kits for that. Even if you don’t have a kit, you can boil your water to quickly kill any bacteria and bugs that may be in it.
Did I say boil? You don’t even have to do that. In actuality, most bacteria in water are killed off at lower-than-boiling temperatures. But I’ll tell you right now, after what I went through, I will always boil water before I drink it in those conditions again.
The take-away here is simple: Be safe and in the best condition you can be if a crisis occurs, even if it’s self-inflicted. Don’t be unprepared like I was in Cambodia. Know what the conditions are where you are headed; get your supplies in hand and your protocol in order. And be smarter than they think you are.
Managing Editor, Absolute Rights