When you're camping, it's tempting to drink water straight from pristine-looking lakes and streams – but don't do it! Microscopic single-celled parasites can cause illnesses in humans if ingested. Here are two common waterborne diseases that could ruin your week:
- Cryptosporidiosis (crip-toh-spore-id-ee-oh-sis) is caused by Cryptosporidium (crip-toh-spore-id-ee-um). The symptoms include watery diarrhea, headache, nausea, and stomach cramps. It can show up 2 to 10 days (average of 7 days) after becoming infected, and the symptoms usually last for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Giardiasis (jee-ar-dye-a-sis), also known as "beaver fever," is caused by Giardia (jee-ar-dee-ah). It shares similar symptoms with cryptosporidiosis. Symptoms include diarrhea, gas, stomach cramps, weakness, and weight loss. Vomiting, chills, and headache may also occur. Symptoms first show up 1 to 14 days (average of 7 days) after becoming infected and usually last 1 to 3 weeks.
How to prevent waterborne diseases:
- Use bottled water only, or boil water at least one minute before using it. Alternatively, you can purify water with special water filters that remove microscopic parasites.
- Don't brush your teeth, wash dishes, fruits, or vegetables, or use ice cubes made with water that hasn't been purified.
- Peel raw fruits and vegetables before you eat them.
- Wash your hands with bottled or purified water only, and do it carefully several times a day.
- Don't swallow water when you're swimming.
If you think you have cryptosporidiosis or giardiasis, see your doctor right away. You may need to give stool samples to see if you have the parasite, and then get treated with prescription medications to get rid of it for good.
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