Traveling with Children and Water Quality

hippie family in van

Churpa, Steve, and Tina heading south in the van.

A reader writes:
This summer, my wife and I wish to travel and stay for a month or so to San Miguel or Guanajuato with our children ages 4 and 1 (right around 12-13 months). Our itinerary will be light:  just stay in a city and get to know it intimately. However, we’re concerned about issues like water: brushing teeth, when washing food, etc, especially with our younger child. Wondering if there’s a risk of him becoming ill even if we use bottled water as much as possible. What can you tell us about water differences and friends of yours with young children who have decamped in Mexico for extended periods of time?
Churpa responds:
I have been known to brush my teeth with Mexican tap water, but then again I have spent the last 37 years developing a significant immunity to Mexican germs. Drinking water is easy to come by and our recommendations have relaxed significantly in the past ten years. For example, if you order a glass of water in a restaurant you can expect to get drinking water, and, as a general rule, drink ice can be trusted. I also eat salads in restaurants, which used to be a no-no, due to vegetables being washed in tap water. If you have a weak stomach, you might want to be more careful, though.
Drinking water is easy to come by in Mexico. It comes in big blue jugs, or garrafons. You pay a deposit for your first bottle (around 50 pesos) and then can refill for about 20 pesos. You can buy these at tiendas, but you should be able to find someone who will deliver to your rental. I use this water for drinking, washing vegetables, and rinsing dishes.  You could also just add a drop of Clorox to tap water when rinsing.
It’s almost inevitable that you and your kids will get sick at some point, but don’t panic–that’s just part of the drill. As you spend more time in Mexico, your whole family will eventually develop a better tolerance. All in all Mexico is a great place for traveling with kids. If you do get sick, you can find good healthcare in the state of Guanajuato. My main advice would be: don’t fret. The joys of Mexico more than make up for the inconveniences.

2 Responses to “Traveling with Children and Water Quality”

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  1. -El Codo- says:

    From the school of hard knocks…
    Bring a big box of those alcohol gel tissues, and wipe little hands after visiting stores, and before eating out. Fingers in mouth, nose and eyes are a direct connection between bacteria and the body. The use of the pads really does cut down on sickness in children.

    Check with your pediatrician at home to see what medication at what dosage would be appropriate for each child – they’re all different. Nestlé, pediatric formula is available down here with minerals added to prevent dehydration if diarrhea is involved. Your pediatrician will tell you if Lomotil is appropriate and offer recommended dosages. Brenda learned that the largest size “Hoogies” will even work on a small-boned six-year old.

    Purified water is excellent. Especially when the bottles are rinsed before filling with water and chlorine bleach then rinsed well.

    I’d go easy on street food at first, except for tamales. Greasy meat is another pitfall, and sadly so is shrimp and oysters. Fish is fried so therefore less risky. Go easy on salads. After several days little stomachs adapt to foreign bacteria (after a fashion).

    BTW those gel wipes are excellent soda can and bottle neck and cap sanitizers. Highly recommended.

    Maruchan soups and crackers plus squeezed yourself orange juice are super nutritious recuperation foods.

    I went a little overboard here – making your trip sound riskier than it will actually be. Better to offer lots of advice then end up not needing it than the other way round.

  2. jjayj says:

    We toured Central America for about a year in ’76- ’77 with our 3 year0ld in a VW camper van…way back then we used bottled water and washed vegetables with the iodine stuff…didn’t get sick anywhere until one day in Guatemala City where we ate at a Chinese eatery (dubbed super safe in the AAA book)…one would not wish to repeat the late night (deleted)

    In general, these days (living 10 years in MX), bottled water is safe and vegiss seem to be a non-issue if bought in an active market (lots of stuff sold because they are buying from a supplier selling to NOB(