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Is It Safe To Douche While Traveling Internationally?

Why Douching Isn’t Always Safe When Traveling Internationally

If you can’t drink the tap water, you probably shouldn’t use it to flush your colon either.

We’ve all heard the advice when traveling in some countries to never drink the tap water. One traveler recently revealed he learned the long and very hard way that warning also applies to the use of tap water for douching.

Recently, a tweet from @shaktischild gained attention on social media as the user recalled the horrific aftermath of a past douching experience while visiting Cancun, Mexico.

“Douched in Cancun… I bled for days,” @shaktishcild wrote. “I had to wait until I landed back in NYC to go to the hospital and they pulled a tapeworm out of me. Horrific experience.”

Over the years, it’s become pretty common advice for travelers to avoid drinking tap water during international trips. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises:

“When traveling abroad, know where your water comes from. Contaminated water can look clean but still have harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Factory-sealed bottled water is the safest option for most travelers. (…) Always look for unopened, factory-sealed bottled water or other drinks.”

According to the CDC, common diseases that could be caused by contaminated water include campylobacteriosis, cholera, giardiasis, leptospirosis, norovirus, schistosomiasis, shigellosis, and typhoid.

Indeed, when traveling internationally, much is said about not drinking tap water. Sometimes, travelers are also advised to avoid brushing their teeth with water from the tap. However, it is understandable how one must’ve missed the memo on not using tap water for douching before bottoming.

Between sightseeing, attending events, and/or visiting friends and relatives, a traveler sometimes stumbles upon the opportunity to have sex during a foreign trip. For bottoms, that typically involves a certain level of preparation and precaution that might be different from what they experience back home.

Dr. Evan Goldstein, the CEO of Bespoke Surgical – which focuses on the sexual health of gay men – spoke to Out Traveler about the risks of douching with tap water during an international trip.

“The main takeaway from all of this is that douching with tap water – regardless of where the source is – should be avoided,” Dr. Goldstein explained. “Tap water is what is called a hypotonic solution and when it comes into contact with the internal lining of our rectum, the cells, in turn, get quite irritated. That irritation sheds the protective lining, creating undue mucus and inflammation and can be the nidus for many types of infections and injuries. You’re basically stripping that lining and then, when you use contaminated water, you are most likely going to worsen the situation. And that’s not good for you or your partner(s).”

When asked what are the best solutions and/or alternatives for douching while on an international trip, Dr. Goldstein replied:

“I recommend people stick with isotonic solutions and avoid plain water of any kind – tap, bottled, or otherwise – as well as store-bought enemas. But the actual thinking in our community needs to change and focus on butt-to-gut health. What I mean by this is: how do we use fiber, as well as pre- and probiotics, and diet and exercise, to truly limit how much we actually have to douche (if even at all). There is still so much stigma within our community, with immense pressure that we put on one another about being ‘ready’ for anal sex, not to mention the amount of misinformation surrounding the best and proper ways to douche.”

The doctor concluded:

“The anal cavity, which is where anal sex takes place, is a conduit for stool. This means that feces pass through this area when you feel the need ‘to go’ and is otherwise in the clear. You can prove this to yourself by lubing up your favorite toy, preferably one that mimics your partner’s size, inserting it, taking it out, and then examining if it’s clean or not. You will surely be surprised and realize quickly that most times, you’ll be ready to bottom without the need to douche. In other words, most of us have been overdouching for years. And this brings us full circle when it comes to potential pathogens from an activity (douching) that could have been avoided or minimized in the first place.”

The “bottom” line here is: do not, ever, use tap water when douching in a foreign country.

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Bernardo Sim