The last thing you want to get while traveling is food poisoning or traveler’s diarrhea. However, it is quite common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that food poisoning during traveling affects 30–70% of travelers.
You can get food poisoning from ingesting undercooked meat, fish or eggs, contaminated water or other foods not handled appropriately. According to the Mayo Clinic, food poisoning manifests itself through nausea, vomiting, raised temperature, abdominal pain, and diarrhea and in some cases blood in diarrhea. Depending on what you have come in contact with, food poisoning can last from hours to several days.
The CDC, reports that US travelers get food poisoning almost everywhere outside the states. This can be because of the way food is prepared but also because the bacteria and viruses are foreign to the immune systems of average American travelers, while they pose no risk to the locals.
What To Do If You Get Food Poisoning
While avoiding the foreign pathogens highlighted above may not always be possible, there are some tips that might help you recover quickly:
- Avoid Dehydration
It’s not the vomiting or diarrhea that harms your health. It’s the loss of fluids due to vomiting and diarrhea that can devastate your bodily functions. It is important to replenish fluid loss by drinking clean bottled water, soda or clear broths. Boil tap water thoroughly if reliable bottled water is not available. Sucking on ice chips can help too.
- Avoid electrolyte imbalance.
Vomiting can also lead to loss of essential electrolytes or the minerals responsible for maintaining your water balance and other bodily functions such as muscle contraction. You can help control this by drinking coconut water or Gatorade. You can also make your own drink at home. Just add sugar and salt in the ratio of 6:1 tablespoons to a large pot of boiling water. Let it cool and drink throughout the day. Salty crackers are good too.
- Avoid upsetting your stomach.
Common stomach irritants include milk, cheese, caffeinated drinks, alcohol, spicy or undercooked meats. If you are suffering from food poisoning, it is best to avoid these food items. Instead go for bland, low-fat options such as bananas, dry toast and boiled rice.
- When in doubt- seek medical help!
It is a good idea to pack some over the counter loperamide or Imodium or Bismuth subsalicylate, (brand name Pepto-Bismol). However, if your condition does not improve, you should consult a doctor. The following signs should not be ignored, and medical attention should be sought immediately
- Diarrhea that lasts longer than three days
- Blood in vomit or diarrhea
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Lightheadedness or dry mouth