There’s never a good time to get food poisoning, but vacation is arguably the worst possible moment. Not only do you have to deal with the sickness itself, but you also have the added stress of figuring out how it’s going to affect your trip. Food poisoning falls into a range of severity, from a few hours of discomfort to serious symptoms that can last for days. Fortunately, according the Mayo Clinic, food poisoning will usually clear up on its own within 48 hours. Depending on the length of your trip, and the time at which the food poisoning occurs, this may or may not be enough time to recover. Here’s what you should do if you fall ill while on vacation:
Take it easy
Because you’re on a trip, you might be tempted to stick to your original itinerary even when feeling unwell. This is usually fine to do when you have a slight cold, but food poisoning is a different matter. Since food poisoning causes symptoms in the digestive tract, heading out while still ill can lead to situations that embarrass you and put others at risk of catching the virus or bacteria you have. For example, if you throw up in public and it’s not properly cleaned, other people can pick up the virus you caught from the food. Call off planned outings until you’re feeling better.
The biggest health risk associated with diarrhea and vomiting (food poisoning’s two most common symptoms) is dehydration. As your body works to expel the germs that threaten your health, it also gets rid of most of your stored water. Almost all complications from food poisoning occur when those affected don’t rehydrate properly. Make sure you’re drinking lots of water – sports drinks and meal replacement shakes can also help you regain nutrients you’ve lost. Avoid caffeine and soda, which can actually dehydrate you in the long run. If you’re having trouble keeping down water, you can eat ice chips instead. This will ensure that you’re not taking in too much at once and upsetting your stomach.
Seek medical care
Depending on the length and severity of your food poisoning, you may need to see a doctor. Schedule an appointment with a physician if you experience any of the following:
- Diarrhea lasting five or more days.
- Diarrhea accompanied by a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
- Dizziness or intense thirst.
- Inability to keep down food lasting for more than 24 hours.
In addition, certain symptoms can indicate a much bigger problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Go to an ER if you experience:
- Pounding or racing heartbeat.
- Black or maroon stool (bloody).
Consider interrupting or extending your trip
Depending on when your food poisoning occurs, it may be best to cut your trip short or even extend it. If it happens early on, you may consider heading home as soon as you’ve recovered enough to fly. Your travel insurance plan should cover the interruption, but you may want to call to verify that your costs will be reimbursed. Whether you want to go this route will be up to how you’re feeling – if you recover fully within a short period of time, you might feel perfectly comfortable continuing on your vacation. However, many people continue to have low energy for a number of days after most food poisoning symptoms have ended – you may find your trip significantly less enjoyable.
If it happens near the end of your trip, you may need to extend your stay for a few days until you feel well enough to travel. If you’re not sure whether or not you should go this route, it’s best to err on the side of caution – few forms of travel are truly food-poisoning friendly, so it’s usually best to wait until your symptoms have fully cleared before you head back home.