On my final day of a hut to hut tour of Grand paradiso in Italy last september I drank delicious cold water from a mountain stream,above all habitation and just below the glacier I presumed it to be an acceptable risk,nothing unusual in that ive done similiar things for 30 years.
Within 30 minutes I felt nausea,within the hour vomiting followed by stomach cramps to die for then awful runs before stumbling into Pont and finding a hotel.
The worse symptons cleared within 48 hours but it just left me with a terrible constant stomach ache.After a week I visited my G.P he put it down to bad water but still sent off for tests.The results of these tests meant i needed an urgent colonoscopy/endoscopy which thankfully returned back clear.
Stomach ache continued for a further 3 months before it finally subsided in jan of this year to an acceptable level.
This week I got the results after further hospital tests (c.t scan,Barium meal) and once again all clear and the specialist and my G.P are still putting it down to contaminated water.
Done the tour of the Jungfrau this July,funny thing was never drunk out of any streams!
Water from a glacier is not a good idea to drink. That is, the water is usually not contaminated, but:
The reason you get ill is because it will have lots and lots of tiny, tiny bits of gravel in it... and you can imagine what that does to your insides when it's going through. It will look like the water is clear and good to drink, but the little bits are still there if you've got water too close to the glacier. Glaciers are moving things - which is why they make valleys and why you see lots of gravels where they used to end - back to geography lessons here.
If drinking water from a stream coming from a clacier, you must be quite far away from it to make sure that all those particles have sunk to the bottom.
You're not the first to have made that mistake...
How does small bits of gravel cause stomach problems? Sorry ss, I'm not refuting what you say, I'm no medical expert myself, just asking. I can see how it might, in the right quantity, cause some discomfort but what Julian describes sounds like some sort of bug to me.
Sorry to hear about your aunt Trevor. I had a similar, albeit far less serious, experience 5 years ago in the French alps. I was watching the the Tour de France on top of the Col de Telegraph and drank some water from a stream. It was a stinkin' hot day and loads of other were drinking it too. That evening I started feeling a bit queezy and around 4am the next day it hit me. Crap coming out both ends!! I felt terrible and barely had the energy to walk let alone cycle over mountains for the next week. Fortunately I started feeling better relatively quickly but I sometimes wonder how many others who drank the water also got ill. All the other water I drank was from the hotels where I stayed or bottled water so I can only assume the stream was the most likely culprit.
This is something that always worries me, the hills are not the place for the trots
For a simple solution does anyone know if AQUACLEAR tablets are any good?
Yes sorry to hear about your Aunt Trevor.When I was travelling in Columbia my brother was hospitialised with amoebic dysentry,very nasty.While there is evidence to suggest people can build up immunity to some waterborne bugs etc there are still over 100 that us humans can NEVER build up any immunity to if the water remains untreated.
As for the glacier particles theory im not at all convinced,streams have various particles floating in them by there nature and while it could cause some irritation I can,t believe it could cause such long term problems.Surely its little different to getting wiped out surfing when all that sea water and sand gets swallowed?
With glacial streams, isn't it the silt that gives some folk the runs? Glacial streams are usually milky, which is the silt, if something is clear then there'd be no silt in it and any particles larger than silt (ie sand) will have settled out (OK sand can be in suspension, but only in very fast-flowing water and by the time it gets to your mouth the sand would have settled).
I think what Julian had was down to either bugs (in which case you'd have expected the tests to show them up) or perhaps an unusual chemical makeup?
I guess if it was the silt, then it would depend what the silt was made of. Ground-up limestone, for instance, shouldn't cause any problem and might even do a bit of good. Ground up lead ore, on the other hand, is definitely not good to ingest!
For my part, I drink water anywhere and everywhere, and I'll only reject it if it shows obvious signs of being 'bad'. In places like France and Spain, they're usually pretty good at labelling water sources as being drinkable or not. If a source was labelled as being unfit for drinking, I guess I'd leave it alone. In the Alps recently, I came across some sources labelled as being from an 'uncontrolled' source, and I was quite happy to drink from them. My 'reading' of the situation was that these sources were essentially there if you wanted them, and were being used for drinking, but no-one was actually forcing you to drink if you didn't want to!
I once saw glacier ice being used for ice cubes on a boat trip in Chile (a trip that took you right up to a glacier, one of the crew got out on the bows and chipped off a bucketful), you could see the silt coming off them as they melted in your drink, there was no ill effects though, maybe the whisky cancelled them out.
Its a good point about people being immune to bugs in their local water source, where I live the mains water is from a nearby spring and is untreated, none of us yokels get any problems from that (er...that I've noticed that is) but people who are used to treated water do sometimes get an upset stomach, there are 3 RAF people stationed here who are not allowed to drink the water at all (even boiled), they get all their water flown in in 5 gallon containers.
The stream in question was about a mile away from the glacier and i took the water from an airbourne waterfall part.Had about a cup fall and as it was stinking hot had a sort of head shower.Great at the time.
Shortly after I did start to wonder about contamination from the Ibex/Chamois population.Hadn,t seen any for a couple of days but im sure they would be about.
Clearly not too close to a glacier, then! I only mentioned it, as you said the water had come from a glacier, but you were too far away for that to have mattered. I never knew it would be bad to drink water too close to one, but got this explanation for a mountaineer/guide/local this summer - after some people got really ill.
I do feel for you - sounds like you've had a rough time with it.
I've also heard that drinking from glacier runoff can cause problems, but I'm blowed if I can find a search phrase to make google find any references.
I'd also like to find a simple summary table of time to onset of water-borne pathogens, i.e. how long does it take between drinking & becoming ill. Again, I can't get google to spit the results out, but I'm sure someone must have done it, as it seems a thoroughly useful sort of table to have...
Given the rapid onset of Julian's symptoms, I'd have said that it was unlikely to be viral, as these have longer incubation periods. I've found one reference that says that onset can occur rapidly after consumption of water contaminated with faecal coliforms, but they give no definition of 'rapid'...
Areas around alpine huts have a bit of a reputation for being large, open toilets. If the stream was near a hut, that's a possibility, but it doesn't sound like it was. Maybe someone used the glacier edge to have a dump...
Or maybe the infection occurred some time earlier, and has been wrongly associated with the glacial stream.
I tend to purify these days after years of not bothering; my stomach is a bit dodgy as I too have been lucky enough to have had Amoebic Dysentry (cheaper than liposuction)....contracted when I did the Karakorum Highway....
I've also heard that drinking from glacier runoff can cause problems, but I'm blowed if I can find a search phrase to make google find any references. - Wrote cp.
Might this not be mentioned someplace or other in a mountaineering medicine type book maybe then, do you think?
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