Getting sick from something you ate absolutely stinks! However, having food poisoning while traveling abroad is a whole different story. Hopefully you stumbled on this article out of curiosity. Yet, if you’re laying in bed in a foreign country looking for any sign of hope that things are going to get better… It will! In this article, I’ll break down strategies that worked for me for how to cure food poisoning in the past. This includes what symptoms of food poisoning to look out for, about its onset, and how long it typically lasts.
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My Not-So-Fun History With Food Poisoning
First off, I’m not a doctor and am in no way giving medical advice! If you feel like you have food poisoning while at home or abroad you should see a medical professional. I’m simply sharing my experience in hope that it will help others who find themselves in a similar situation.
I’ve had food poisoning very bad three times and experienced other smaller incidents while traveling. While that might sound like a lot, for someone who travels full time (and samples all the street food I come in contact with) I guess I should consider myself lucky!
Each time I’ve gotten sick it’s come on fast and hard. It started with just feeling weird, which at first I thought was the strong sun in Asia. Next, I felt nauseous, and not soon after my body was sending off alarm bells to get back to my hotel immediately.
For me, it is ALWAYS a sour feeling. That’s really the only way to describe it. Deep in my stomach, something feels very off. Most of the time it’s been from eating chicken as well!
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How to Avoid Getting Food Poisoning Abroad
This is the million-dollar question! I’ll be the first to admit to getting food poisoning abroad. Still, I travel much more than most and have eaten ALOT of wild stuff in my time.
If you think I’m going to tell you to travel to Southeast Asia and not eat all the delicious street food you’re wrong. Or in the back alley street markets of South America, that you shouldn’t indulge in the local specialties? Nope. I won’t say it!
For me and most others, food is a massive part of traveling and enjoying your trips abroad. It’s about tasting the different flavors and unique meals that you may have never known existed.
If you love Pho and claim that it’s one of your favorite meals just wait. There is nothing like exploring the streets of Hanoi and squatting down on a small red stool with a massive bowl of soup!
What I’m saying is it’s important to taste ALL the food while you travel. Yet, there are a few things you can do to lower your chances of eating something that will make you sick.
→ Eating Street Food in Asia: 8 Helpful Tips to Avoid Getting Sick
What are Symptoms of Food Poisoning?
When traveling abroad you should know what to look for! The symptoms of food poisoning can range, but there are some obvious signs to look for. Here are the usual culprits according to the CDC Website:
- Upset stomach
How Long is Food Poisoning?
If you’re reading this and already sick, don’t worry! I remember laying in bed with one eye open scrolling through the internet and trying to find any glimmer of hope or information.
So I will say it again… It will get better! Just know that how well you take care of yourself will directly impact when you bounce back. As soon as you start to feel sick ask if someone can run out and get you some basic necessities.
Also, just because you’re sick doesn’t always mean it’ll be the worst moment of your life. Food poisoning can range from mild to severe depending on what you ate.
How to Cure Food Poisoning & More Tips
Get a Private Bathroom: If you’re traveling with a group or staying in a hostel this is not the time to be cheap. Having privacy and something clean will be priceless.
Ask for Help: Ask a friend for help and make a backup plan before you get too sick. You should make a plan of where to go if you get to sick after the onset of food poisoning. If you are traveling alone contact the hotel or accommodation.
Stock the Basics: Apple juice, water with electrolytes, and a bland snack like crackers or pretzels.
Blast the AC: If you’re in a hot climate get air conditioning. I was so hot that I needed the AC going at almost all times. Just a fan room wouldn’t do.
More Essentials for How to Cure Food Poisoning
Drink Water: Staying hydrated is a must after the onset of poisoning, but for me it was tough. I hated how it tasted and my throat was sore from getting sick. However, apple juice or water mixed with flavored electrolytes helped so much. That’s just my personal experience and everyone is different.
Make a Plan for Medical Care: Need to go to the hospital? Where are you going and how will you get there? Pack a small bag before you get too sick planning for the worst. Bring a change of clothes, passport, money, insurance information, and anything else you may need. That way if you do get to the point you need medical attention you can leave quickly.
Play a Book on Tape: Weird one right? Hear me out. When I’ve been sick with food poisoning It hurts to move, I can barely open my eyes, and constantly am thinking about how bad I feel. I can’t focus on watching anything and time moves slow. So a book on tape is a great distraction between bathroom trips. You can get a free trial on Audible, Kindle Unlimited, or Prime Reading.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Hospital!
I can’t be alone in saying I HATE going to the hospital. Especially abroad where there is a language barrier and you might question the quality of the facility and care.
One thing that is very important to know is that if you are in a popular tourist area there are often hospitals that cater to just tourists. These are often called “medical clinics” instead. You can do a quick google search to find reviews or ask your hotel or homestay where they recommend going.
So why might you need to go to the hospital? Once again I’m not a doctor and have ZERO medical background. However, from my experience after getting food poisoning abroad I can’t recommend it enough.
Buy Travel Insurance
Never travel abroad without protection! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road. Different companies cover different situations and amounts so pick one that works best for you. They reimbursed us for all medical bills (after the annual deductible) when we last had our last unfortunate food poisoning abroad.
My First Experience After the Onset of Food Poisoning
The first time I had food poisoning aboard it took me over a month to bounce back and that was for several reasons. First, I was beyond dehydrated. After 4 days in bed, I couldn’t get the liquids I needed to recover properly. I was too afraid to chance getting sick again and wasn’t eating food with enough nutrients.
One thing to know is that I actually got sick from eating chicken at a nice restaurant. It was one of the handful of times we weren’t eating street food! So goes to show that you never know when it might strike.
Getting Food Poisoning Abroad… Again!
Years later, I was back in Asia and unfortunately battling another round of food poisoning. It hit at the WORST time possible. I was standing in a long customs line entering Thailand from Vietnam.
All of a sudden my stomach felt sour, I was drenched in sweat, and in a full panic. I popped the maximum amount of Imodium and crossed my fingers I would make it to the hotel! Good news I did! However, I was so sick by time I got in the taxi that I started crying uncontrollably. The taxi driver rushed through the Bangkok traffic and looked about as panicked as I felt.
The second time I wasn’t messing around. I went to the hospital this time as soon as my stomach would allow me! I was weak and dehydrated and given two IV bags that instantly made me feel 100 times better.
Also, I was able to get my blood work done to make sure I had everything I needed to recover. This gave me the peace of mind that I didn’t contract something that was actually WORSE than food poisoning!
Post Food Poisoning Recovery
You know your body and are the only one who will be able to judge your recovery. The one thing I can’t stress enough is to give yourself enough time to heal. Food poisoning can completely ruin a trip, but in the long run, your health is most important.
So how long is food poisoning? Like we said, that all depends on the severity and how well you help yourself recover! There is no silver bullet for how to cure food poisoning. At least you know a few tips now so you’re not completely lost when it happens to you.
Have any questions about what to do after the onset of food poisoning or want to share your own tips for how to cure food poisoning? Let us know in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
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Great advice for unavoidable situations.
Yup! Happens to the best of us. Thanks for reading