Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical Drinking Contaminated Water

  1. Jul 4, 2008 #1
    A couple days ago i drank some unclean water. I didn't have a fever or anything. The sites i have been to don't tell me how long it takes for your body to react, just the symptoms. So my question is within how much time will your body react to contaminated water?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 4, 2008 #2

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Time depends in part on the species of pathogen, the titre of the pathogen, and possibly the presence of antagonistic gut flora. You may also have been exposed repeatedly to the pathogen and have developed some resistance.

    Without knowing what was in the water we cannot give you a less fuzzy answer.

    If you think you were exposed to something that can be serious, see a physician soon.
     
  4. Jul 4, 2008 #3

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Though I'd think the likelihood of illness would be highest in the first few to several hours, dropping off fairly rapidly after that.
     
  5. Jul 4, 2008 #4

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Bacterial infections would probably become apparent fairly quickly, within a few days. However, there are risks beyond bacteria, such as intestinal parasites (i.e., worms) that could take longer to become symptomatic. If you develop any unusual symptoms within the next 6 months, such as vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, edema, etc., mention that you drank unclean water and the source of it to any doctor you see. You may be lucky and nothing happens, or any illness you experience ends up totally unrelated, but it will be important for the doctor to consider it if you do have any symptoms that could be due to parasitic infection.
     
  6. Jul 4, 2008 #5

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I picked up an intestinal parasite in Mexico and had severe diahrhea within a few days. Unfortunately I waited a month before being tested and by then had lost a lot of weight and could barely walk.
     
  7. Jul 4, 2008 #6

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Now why aren't they selling that on the Shopping Channel!
     
  8. Jul 5, 2008 #7

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Most waterborne contaminants let you know they're in you pretty quickly. Nonetheless, there are a few parasites that take their time to work their way out to the organs they affect. How likely this is of course depends on the source of the water. For example, tapeworms aren't usually a waterborne parasite, but if the water source was a puddle in a lawn or meadow, it's possible to pick up some that way. It would take a while for a tapeworm infestation to become apparent. We don't have information about where this water was or the source of contamination, so only very broad, general answers are possible. It could be anything from drinking from streams in the Amazon rain forest to having a glass of tap water without having heard the news that there's an advisory to boil the water due to flooding around the water treatment plant it comes from.
     
  9. Jul 5, 2008 #8
    I usually live in America but right now I an in India and we usually get the water filtered and then boil it. But i had drunk some non-boiled water.

    Side note:
    The family that i am living with, they just drink filtered water.

    Edit: This water came from a well
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2008
  10. Jul 5, 2008 #9

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    That helps. If it's well water, then the main concern would be bacteria. Filtering might not remove all bacteria, depending on the type of filter (hence the added precaution of boiling), but it would take care of larger parasites. If the family you're with doesn't usually boil the water, then the filtration they're using is probably adequate (unless you're noticing them getting sick to their stomachs often). So, if you haven't already had symptoms after a few days, you're probably okay.

    Just as a general rule of thumb, no matter where you travel or what you consume or do while traveling, if you come down with some illness after your return, it is worth a mention to your doctor that you've been traveling. Every place has its own indigenous "bugs," whether it be particular strains of bacteria that might have different degrees of antibiotic sensitivity/resistance or different types of parasites, so it's worth it for a doctor to know this to consider those possibilities when making a diagnosis. They may quickly dismiss it as irrelevant, or if they've ruled out all the usual suspects, may need to consider something more "exotic."
     
  11. Jul 5, 2008 #10

    fluidistic

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    It can also depends if there is mercury or other poisons in the water. Depends of the quantity you drunk it, and I don't know if boiling it can help to eliminate a large number of poisons. I recommend you to buy mineral water if it's not too expensive were you live. Tell the family you're living with that as you were not living in a country with such water dilemma, your body is more fragile with respect to water from well and you prefer to drink a safer water.
     
  12. Jul 8, 2008 #11
    yea i got most of what you guys are saying off of web sites but going back to my original question, is there a rule of some type saying if you don't have these symptoms within a certain amount of time you are fine
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?