Great title, right? Unfortunately, on my trip to Mexico, I got intimately familiar with what getting sick on the road is like.
Those who know me know that I hardly ever get sick. Like, I barely even get the common cold. Consequently, I’ve been lucky enough to evade any travel sickness for quite a while now, so I guess it was only a matter of time before it caught up with me.
On my trip to Mexico last month, I had a slight bit of food poisoning. And when I say slight, I actually mean 24 hours of being violently ill. As the title would suggest, it was not the most glamorous affair, but I did learn a few things.
First off, I learned what food poisoning feels like (or at least, I think I do). We never could trace back my sickness to exactly what had upset my stomach but the symptoms were all there. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Graphic, I know, but bear with me. When you eat something that your stomach deems unacceptable, your body completely rejects it and tries to rid itself of the substance however it can, hence the unpleasant symptoms. For me, the nauseous feeling was intensified because it was hot and muggy, and when the sickness actually hit me, we were on perhaps the roughest bus ride I’ve ever been on, and thus my nausea could no longer be contained, and I threw up what little I had eaten that day, into my own two hands.
This brings me to the second thing: you should always travel prepared. I’m not saying you need to be like Mary Poppins and pull a whole hospital out of your bag, but you should always take a couple of key items, whether or not you commonly get sick. First and foremost: TISSUES/NAPKINS. I got in the habit of carrying napkins around with me when I was in Shanghai for a year because many places do not provide toilet paper in public bathrooms. Thank goodness the habit stuck, because I had some napkins in my bag to help me clean myself up while I was still on the bus.
Another great item is disinfecting wipes. I say wipes because a bottle is just extra liquid for your TSA approved bag, and also because on the whole, I am against hand sanitizer. I think it’s silly, it kills the immune system, and it dries out my hands, so I am NOT a fan. HOWEVER, if you throw up in your own hands, or do something equally disgusting, it might be nice to have a couple stashed nearby so you can at least feel semi clean until you get yourself to a real bathroom with real soap.
Lastly, bring some standard meds with you. We’re talking painkillers, Alka Seltzers, and any and all manner of indigestion drugs you think is applicable. When you’ve got food poisoning, there aren’t many drugs that can help at the moment, but they will help mild discomfort and might help after the fact as well.
While I was sick, I did a couple of important things — Once we got back to our hotel room, I immediately stripped to my underwear and got a cold washcloth to keep myself from overheating. My amazing boyfriend went out to get me some more cold water, coca cola, and plan crackers (or tortilla chips in Mexico’s case). The Coca-Cola I mixed with water to drink to settle my stomach. Ginger ale is ideal for this, but Coke is a reliable brand pretty much everywhere in the world. The plain crackers were so that my body wasn’t running on empty, but they are also such a mild food that they wouldn’t irritate my stomach any further.
By far the worst thing about food poisoning is that no matter how badly you try and take away the nausea, your body will insist on ridding itself of whatever you ate/drank and you have to let it run its course. At the start, I would try and prevent the vomit for as long as possible, but there was no way around it. Once I let myself be sick whenever I could feel it rising, things progressed a lot faster. Eventually, your body will be spent and there will be nothing else to get rid of. I was able to go to sleep and woke up the next morning feeling weak, but markedly better.
To recover, you must still be gentle. I continued to sip only water or coke mixed with water, and only ate plain foods the next day. The day after, however, I was able to eat and drink normally.
Being sick on the road is perhaps one of the worst things that can happen. Luckily, I was only down for 12 hours, had someone to take care of me, and we were staying in a hotel instead of a hostel so it could’ve been much worse. I remember the epidemic that swept my Shanghai study abroad group that put the majority of us down during what was supposed to be a field trip to Yunnan province. I escaped then, but I wasn’t able to escape forever.
Have you ever gotten sick while traveling? How did you handle it? I hope I don’t make a habit of this, but being prepared never hurt anyone!