So, what are the health risks associated with not boiling your water? We took this question straight to Houston-area Dr. Christine Le, a family medicine specialist at Kelsey-Seybold.
First, the boil water notices are issued when an area’s water is, or could be, contaminated with bacteria that could make you sick. Boiling kills disease-causing organisms, including viruses, bacteria and parasites.
You’ll want to boil water before you do anything that involves human consumption, such as drinking, cooking, and brushing your teeth.
“The water is not clean for us and so, we shouldn’t drink it, we shouldn’t cook with it, and we shouldn’t give it to ourselves to drink or even to our pets,” explained Le. “We have to be very safe at this time.”
If you happen to skip the boil and drink water while under a boil order, there are some health risks attached.
Le said the water is considered to be similar to flood water and shouldn’t be consumed.
“It’s very dirty, lots of germs, there could be viruses in there, hepatitis, there could be bacteria,” she said. “These are germs that could definitely get a person very ill, get their pets ill, send you to the hospital … during this trying time, that’s just not something that could be very helpful for any of us.”
How sick would you get? It depends on a person’s immune system. The best bet is to avoid consuming it at all during this time.
Le adds that it’s even risky to not boil water used for cooking and brushing your teeth.
“Because the water is considered unclean, and there’s lots of germs in it, those could cause infections, vomiting, diarrhea, upset stomachs … we really should not brush our teeth with it,” said Le. “I think we’ll probably need to remind yourself, for those of us who actually have water, to not use the water like we normally would.”
The following information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here are some common questions and answers about boil water advisories.
What should I do if a boil water advisory is in effect?
If you have bottled water available for drinking and to prepare and cook food, you can use that. But if bottled water isn’t available, it’s advised you:
- Bring water to a full rolling boil for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes)
- Allow the water to cool before use
- Boil tap water, even if it is filtered
- Don’t use water from any appliance connected to your water line, such as ice and water from a refrigerator
- Breastfeeding is the best infant feeding option. If you formula feed your child, provide ready-to-use formula, if that’s available
Note that many cities and communities surrounding the Houston area said you can boil the water for at least two minutes.
What if I have already consumed potentially contaminated water?