Health hazard after vacation: This handle protects you

Health hazard after vacation: This handle protects you
Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / congerdesign

While you’re on vacation, bacteria can multiply in the unused plumbing of your shower and sink. In this article you will find out what you need to consider after your vacation to protect yourself.

In a (temporarily) uninhabited apartment, not only can cobwebs bear witness to the absence of the residents, but uninvited guests can also have made their way into the unused water pipes. This can also happen while you were on vacation: Legionella can multiply. According to the Öko Test, infection with it can happen, for example, if you inhale the finest water droplets while showering or washing your face.

But you can prevent this with a simple action.

What are legionella?

Legionella can multiply well in warm lakes, but also in drinking water.
Legionella can multiply well in warm lakes, but also in drinking water.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / TomMarc)

Legionella are rod-shaped bacteria that live and multiply in water. They are particularly common in standing water that is thermally stressed. These are, for example, lakes that are heated by the waste heat from nearby industrial plants. They are also often found in mud or air conditioning condensation. They get into organisms via contaminated water and cannot be transmitted from person to person.

Legionella can also occur in drinking water. Because taps in which the water stands longer offer an ideal habitat for legionella. According to the Robert Koch Institute, they can multiply particularly well at temperatures between 25 and 45 degrees Celsius. If it is too cold (below 20 degrees Celsius), they can no longer multiply appreciably and if the temperatures are too hot (over 60 degrees Celsius), the bacteria die.

No matter how long your journey was and how thirsty you are – don’t drink from the tap as soon as you get home. This way you can avoid a possible legionella infection.

Symptoms of Legionella infection

Old taps in nature are also a source of danger for legionella.
Old taps in nature are also a source of danger for legionella.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / Alexas_Photos)

In 2019, almost 1,800 cases of legionellosis, an infection caused by legionella that affects the respiratory tract, were reported in Germany. It is fatal in about five to ten percent of people, especially the elderly and those with a weakened immune system. Healthy people very rarely become seriously ill with the infection.

The bacteria trigger two clinical pictures:

Legionnaires’ disease / Legionella pneumonia: Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia.

It can show itself through:

  • Cough
  • chills
  • Headache
  • severe feeling of illness
  • high fever
  • Diarrhea or confusional states are also possible.

Untreated pneumonia is usually severe and should therefore always be examined and treated by a doctor.

The second disease transmitted through Legionella contaminated water is Pontiac fever.

This causes symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • malaise
  • headache and body aches

Pontiac fever does not cause pneumonia and usually goes away on its own within a week.

After the holiday: how to protect against legionella?

Elderly people are particularly at risk.
Elderly people are particularly at risk.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / StockSnap)

Particularly dangerous areas for a possible infection are large buildings with long water pipes, such as hospitals, old people’s homes, large hotels or schools, where the warm water can stop for several weeks. But legionella can also form many pathogenic offspring in your water pipes over days and weeks.

Prevention is the best protection against the bacteria. You don’t need any equipment for this, just your hand. When you come home after your vacation, turn on all the taps and the shower before you use it and let the water run through at maximum temperature to replace it with new.

A few minutes are enough to flush out the bacteria and bring drinkable water back into the pipes. As Öko Test writes, it is sufficient in an average family home to drain around ten liters to replace the water.

Read more on Techzle\.com:

  • Let the water run for a short time: Necessary – or a waste?
  • Do blood vessels calcify when you drink hard water?
  • Mineral water test: uranium, nitrate and pesticides – which is the best mineral water?

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