Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Don't Drink the Water

Delhi Belly, Montezuma's Revenge, the Pharoh's Curse.. I don't know what silly nickname has been bestowed to traveler's sickness in Brazil, but there are a lot of reasons why you shouldn't drink the water here. Namely, the Samarco mine disaser, but I've written enough on that. I don't know if I have a particularly weak stomach, but I've been sick a lot here. Actually, I have a propensity for getting sick. Strep throat, migraines, extremely painful monthly cramps (like extra-extra, thank you tubal), sinus infections, colds, I get them all. I eat really healthy and I get a decent amount of exercise, so I guess I just have a shitty immune system. On the other hand, all the women in my family live well into old age, so maybe it's the price I pay for all the extra years. Either way, my stomach still hasn't quite adapted to all the new bacteria and viruses Brazil has to offer.

When Maicon started school last year, he spent a lot of days at home due to stomach issues. Now that Alessandra is starting school, and has had her first real exposure to a ton of kids, she's accumulating sick days as well. Out of 10 full days and 3 half days of school since school began, she's spent 4 full days at home. She's averaging 1/3 of her school time at home, sick. I'm not complaining, since it saves me an extra drop off/pick up, and I kind of miss her when she's not here destroying everything. But I don't take any kind of pleasure in stripping a mattress and showering a toddler in the middle of the night.

I haven't read up on how much time one needs to spend in a foreign land before they become acclimated to the local illnesses, but I thought that that time would have already come for us. I think we've had a delayed acclimation in part because we very rarely eat out, and in part because we only cook with and drink bottled water. I only have stomach issues now maybe once every two months. And I try to think on the bright side - "Now I don't have to count all those calories!" Also, I rarely feel nausous with it - I think I filled my lifetime requirement of nausea while pregnant with Alessandra - and it rarely lasts more than a few hours. What really annoys me are the fevers and dizziness that come with it. Not to mention how it seems to come on fast and furious out of nowhere. "Why no officer, I don't know how fast I was going. But since I'm 12 minutes from home and my stomach is upset, driving like a bat out of hell is a bit of a necessity right now!"

Since it passes relatively quickly for me, I try to just drink water until I feel better. (BTW - bottled water here comes in two forms. Agua com gas or agua sem gas. Carbonated or non-carbonated. Make sure you order aqua sem gas, unless you're a psycho and for some reason like carbonated water). If I'm starving, I'll have a very small amout of biscuits or crackers, but I don't want to feed the bacteria. Other than maybe sticking near my house, I don't do anything differently. You should, however, always be on the lookout for serious issues like cholera (oddly enough more common in the US than in Brazil), dysenttry, typhoid fever, rotovirus (especially for children!!), etc. This website has some pretty good info on gut infections.


  1. Shit. I just commented but pressed the wrong button!!!
    Here is goes again. :)
    My family and I are generally never sick. That was before moving to Rondônia. Over there we spent three years in a constant state of exhaustion. We don't know if it was all because of the constant heat, general lack of hygiene around us or the various tropical viruses that were transmitted through water, food, human contact... Who knows! I am generally cooking all our food at home but occasionally buy a bread or pamonha at the market. Towards the end, I was not buying any food prepared by someone else anymore. It did seem to help a bit. The situation greatly improved when we moved to Goiás where the nights were cooler and we consequently could rest better at night. Currently in São Paulo, we are seemingly back to our normal selves.

    1. Thanks for commenting! We have an air conditioner in our house and screens to keep the mosquitos out - so you'd think we have a leg up on the whole "sleeping better at night" thing. It is so hot and so dry in Minas Gerais that between the dust never settling and the extra-dryness from the air conditioner, the colds never end. I currently have two kids with fevers topping out at 104F, power vomiting, and lethargy. But the clinic and hospitals (having run no tests) have assured me that it's just gripe! We're about to spend 6 months in the States, and I'm interested to see if we go through a sick-free period while there.