[pct-l] Tummy problems

Douglas Tow douglastow at gmail.com
Thu Jan 29 22:59:30 CST 2015

With due deference to future posts by others on this subject, which will be
both polite and varied, here's some imperfect information on water
purification and stomach bugs.

Least controversial information:

1.  Good personal hygiene after toileting, and before touching food and
eating, is effective.  If your goodies are not going to be eaten just by
you in one sitting, shake the contents out rather than reaching in.  If you
never reach into your gorp or dried fruit or nuts, or allow others to, you
can feel safe shaking some out for others.  Cross contamination between
hikers is, arguably, the #1 reason hikers get tummy bugs.

2.  There are lots of ways to purify water found along the trail.
Chlorine, iodine tabs, pump and gravity filters, UV light pens, AquaMira
tablets or drops should each provide good protection from parasitic and
bacterial threats.  Some methods are less effective under certain
conditions.  For example, chlorine ions can be fixed and rendered
ineffective by heavy minerals in water, and UV pens can't do their job well
in murky water.  Personally, I carry iodine tabs to back up my primary
method - the weight is negligible.

Statements with some controversy:

1.  You can take a chance on some sources of water, or underground sources
fed out through a pipe.  Your risk generally lies in whether or not mammals
(who have  bug humans can get) have been pooping upstream.  In southern
Oregon, cows were common surrounding the trail, and I always treated.  From
my personal journeys, I never got a tummy bug, and have realized on many
occasions that I either forgot to follow the purification method protocol,
forgot altogether, or just drank it knowing the risk.

2.  It probably isn't Giardia.  When a tummy problem hits, many, many
hikers just ascribe it to Giardia.  If they don't see a doctor and get
better, who knows?  If they see a doctor, the doctor will probably treat
for Giardia without testing for it, and the treatment won't hurt even if it
isn't Giardia.  Water tests along the trail generally have not found much
if any Giardia.  But tummy bugs are not uncommon, so, voila, it's probably
ineffective hygiene and hiker-to-hiker cross-contamination.


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