Drank puddle water. Now how do we prevent an assplosion?
October 25, 2010 7:11 AM   Subscribe

Drank a liter of unfiltered, chemically treated puddle water. What's the best course of action to avoid gastrointestinal Armageddon?

I went on a camping/hiking trip this past weekend and a water source we were counting on turned out to be nonexistent.
To play it safe until we could get to a known water source, I took water from a small trickle that was going from one large puddle to another large puddle.
The water was fairly clear, cold, and the puddles definitely had a small current to them.

I used two layers of a cotton t-shirt as a make shift filter to remove large debris (pine needles, leaves, etc.) and then treated the water with iodine tablets.

The two of us that drank the water feel fine now but we are just wondering if there is anything we can do preemptively to lessen the chance of getting something like giardiasis.

Oh, and next time we will definitely bring a portable water filter.
posted by toftflin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total)
The point of the iodine is to kill off the various stuff in water. I've drunk known-contaminated water, chemically treated, to test the chemicals--figured sick in bed was better than sick in the bush.

I rather expect you'll be just fine.

Either way, if damage there be, it's already done.
posted by Netzapper at 7:14 AM on October 25, 2010

I am pretty sure if you're going to get sick at this point, you can't avoid it. That said, I expect you'll be fine - I drank chlorine-treated water for months with nary a filter, and didn't get sick.
posted by quadrilaterals at 7:18 AM on October 25, 2010

You will be fine, as long as you gave the iodine time to work. (Unless you were sloppy about washing your hands after pooping, in which case you might have given each other some fun surprises due to the wonders of oral-fecal contact, but that has nothing to do with the water.) Even drinking untreated and unfiltered contaminated water isn't guaranteed to make you sick, for that matter. Assuming you followed the iodine directions for contact time, turbidity, etc, I wouldn't worry.
posted by Forktine at 7:20 AM on October 25, 2010

A good fact sheet on Giardiasis. If you're really concerned, start saving poops for your doc.
posted by rtha at 7:26 AM on October 25, 2010

You will probably be OK. The iodine is likely to kill many of the microbes that were in your drinking water. The bad news is that the really nasty protozoan parasites (giardia and cryptosporidium) are resistant to iodine and chlorine, so it's best to double-treat the water (boil it first and then iodine-treat it, waiting at least 50 minutes for the iodine to work before drinking) if you don't have a filter.

The good news is that unless something crapped right in or next to that puddle, there's not that great of a chance that your puddle water was contaminated with either giardia or cryptosporidium. IIRC, giardia is more typically found in more-permanent water sources (ponds, beaver dams, cold running water).

I would just wait it out and see if you start crapping your brains out. There's no prophylactic treatment for giardia, and as far as I can tell from preliminary googling, the prophylactic treatments for crypto (a) aren't that effective, and (b) are really nasty drugs in their own right, and will probably make you feel like shit. If you're still fine next week, then that's that. If not, then you should go see a doctor and stay the hell out of swimming pools and food-preparation areas. I really hope that you're OK though, and I think you probably will be. Just definitely bring a filter next time, and check to be sure that the filter is rated effective against giardia/crypto cysts.
posted by kataclysm at 7:39 AM on October 25, 2010

Where was the source of the puddle water? A recent rain? Should be fine. Can't rule out illness, but the iodine should have killed mostly everything barring some oddball cyst type bugger that might have managed to get through the chemical onslaught. And then even ingesting a bug doesn't guarantee you'll get infected.
posted by gjc at 7:40 AM on October 25, 2010

If you're going to get sick in some less dramatic way than giardiasis, you'll be glad to have drunk some preemptive Pepto Bismol to neutralize the acid in your bile and inhibit diarrhea. Chug a little?

(I am no kind of expert -- that's just what I'd do.)
posted by foursentences at 7:54 AM on October 25, 2010

You'll be fine. A few times when thirsty out in the boondocks, I've drunk water totally untreated or unfiltered by anything (like anyone prior to the 20th century did most of the time). Most of the time it's done nothing more than refresh me. With iodine, I wouldn't even be worrying.
posted by rhymer at 7:55 AM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is what iodine tablets are for. Your biggest problem is that the water tastes kind of funky, but provided you used the tablets as directed on the package, you have nothing to worry about.

Several hundred thousand Boy Scouts and other backpacking enthusiasts do this every year--I've done it for ten straight days--with no ill effects.
posted by valkyryn at 8:11 AM on October 25, 2010

nThing the iodine. I've been camping a fair amount and always just treated the water with iodine resulting in no ill effects for myself or my companions. You should be fine.
posted by jmd82 at 10:25 AM on October 25, 2010

NAD, but based on a lot of experience. If you're going to get giardiasis, it'll happen within a couple of weeks, and you'll almost certainly know (particularly if you haven't had it before).

Testing can be inconclusive, even when you're in full assplosion stage. So treatment is often presumptive or based on symptomatic diagnosis.

You could hurry that process along, tell your GP what you've told us, and seek treatment before you notice any symptoms. Then, if you're GP agreed to treat in the absence of symptoms, it could be as simple as a single dose of tinidazole.

If it's absolutely critical that you not run any risk of missing a day at work, this might one way to go. But the wisdom of it needs to be balanced against the risk of side effects and so on.

But as lots of people have said, it's really really unlikely that you got yourself infected from iodine treated water. So.. don't worry, you'll be fine.
posted by Ahab at 11:21 AM on October 25, 2010

when i used to backpack alot (AP trail and other places) we a couple weeks using iodine tablets as our only method of cleaning water, you'd get some floating things, but it was safe to drink... we'd bring koolaid to get rid of any ill-taste, but never got sick... iodine works as long as you follow the instructions...
posted by fozzie33 at 11:47 AM on October 25, 2010


If you used the tablets correctly you're fine.

Why wouldn't you be? Having an understanding of your gear when you go backpacking/hiking/living is pretty important and, barring any chemically poisonous substances in the water, iodine takes care of anything that can be expected to show up in not-from-a-tap water. So unless there was a reason to think that you water might be affected, rather heavily/obviously, by chemicals then you're really going to be ok.

Oh and on the subject of Giardia, a recent professor of mine that specializes in water treatment (mostly in third world countries and such) speculated to me that alot of the research concerning Giardia is overblown as this link also mentions. Read it and learn to take 'facts' with a grain of salt.

Quote from the link (quoted from another study by medical teams studying giardiasis):

"Neither health department surveillance nor the medical literature supports the widely held perception that giardiasis is a significant risk to backpackers in the United States. In some respects, this situation resembles (the threat to beach goers of) a shark attack: an extraordinarily rare event to which the public and press have seemingly devoted inappropriate attention"

-1 to getting medical attention before you are in need of it.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:01 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for your answers. A week later and no signs of illness.
My concern was probably unwarranted since the water we drank was the result of a recent rain fall.

I'll also add this link which, like RolandOfEld said, points to evidence that the chance of contracting giardiasis from untreated backcountry water is overblown.
posted by toftflin at 4:05 PM on October 31, 2010

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