Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Food Poisoning While Traveling

I wasn't planning on writing about food poisoning today, but considering that I'm currently suffering from this condition, it seemed appropriate.

Let me start off by saying that food poisoning isn't fun regardless of where you are, and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. There's a lot of running to the bathroom, you feel terrible for what seems like forever and you just want to go to sleep.

So far, I've had two really bad cases of food poisoning. The first one wasn't while I was traveling so I won't get into any of the details aside from one interesting tid bit: the most likely culprit in my worst case of food poisoning was bleu cheese. People are always amazed that a moldy cheese can go bad; I don't know the details, but I do know that it can go bad.

My other very memorable food poisoning experience occurred during a business trip in Connecticut. After having some very unsatisfying lunch of food court pizza, I got back to work. At about 4:30 I began to feel a little warmer than usual so I took a break. The people who I was visiting said that I didn't look well; I didn't feel well.

Shortly thereafter I ran to the restroom and made it just in time. People use the phrase "just in time" a little too much for my tastes, but having avoided making a huge mess with projectile vomit I feel perfectly justified in using it.

That night and the following morning were quite rough; I couldn't keep anything down. I spoke to the customer over the phone, and they were very understanding about the situation.

As soon as I was able to walk more than 10 feet without having to retreat to the toilet, I wandered the halls of the hotel looking for a vending machine that sold Gatorade. After finding the Gatorade and returning to my room I threw up. This is a cycle that is often repeated with food poisoning. Get a drink of water, throw up. Eat a piece of bread, throw up. Go to the bathroom, throw up.

I had called the front desk to let them know that I was in sick and that I didn't wish to be disturbed. This information didn't filter down to the cleaning crew, so my sleep was still interrupted. It's very important to use those safety latches when they are available if you are staying in your room.

The day came and went. I don't remember eating anything, but I probably watched Star Trek since that is what I usually do when I'm sick. By the time my scheduled flight rolled around, I was still in rough shape. Armed with one piece of white bread and a small box of Rice Krispies that I found in the hotel breakfast area, I decided to attempt to make my flight and try to get home if at all possible.

I wasn't sure how the return trip was going to go, but I made it without using any of the barf bags on the airplane (I have used those before though), and I didn't soil myself. I was exhausted, but I made it. I was really glad to be home.

Being sick on the road makes you thankful for all the times that you aren't sick and even thankful for the times that you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by the comforts of home.

Have you ever come down with food poisoning while traveling? I'd love to hear your story in the comments section below.

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  1. Phew glad to hear you don't currently have food poisoning Graham! The two times I remember getting food poisoning was once in Brazil last year when I was staying at a youth hostel thing called a posada in the interior of Northeast Brazil. I don't know what I ate but the food in general in that part of the country was pretty unsanitary. I was pretty miserable for a couple days, and then I had stomach cramps and gas for the next few weeks of my trip.
    The other time I got food poisoning was in Cuba xmas of 2005. Partly out of hunger, and partly out of not wanting to be rude, I ate a hamburger that was still really raw in the middle. I got really sick a few hours later and the worst part was there wasn't any medicine to take since it was during the time when the country was still short on medicine supplies. But it was really interesting what the family I was staying with me did to treat me. They gave me papaya to stop the diarrhea and then kept alternating between that and natural laxatives like coffee until my BMs were regular again.

  2. Cathryn StephensJuly 9, 2009 at 5:07 PM

    Hi Graham,

    I can so relate to this! Nothing worse than air travel when you have food poisoning! I just wanted to die once on a flight back from Vegas. I'd gotten food poisoning on the way there, toughed it out in my hotel room,and had NO FUN while in Vegas. On my way back I thought 24 hours w/out food was safe, but learned the hard way after eating some chicken soup. Next time (and you know there will be a next time) no eating at all until back home!

  3. Geez, I =thought= you looked wiped out when you got into my taxi....So, was it the oriental place near the hotel or the upscale place next to that?

    It was a pleasure meeting you.

  4. Craig: Thanks for your stories. At the time I wrote this article, I was indeed sick. Eating slightly underdone ground beef always worries me when the source isn't trusted. If it is trusted, a nice medium rare burger really hits the spot.

    Cathryn: I've had one of those no fun trips to Vegas. I was recovering from serious jet lag and slept most of the time. Meanwhile, a member of our party had their pockets picked. It was not a good trip. I have never had any problems with the food in Vegas aside from there being too much of it.

    Catlin: We met well after I was sick. I was wiped out from whirlwind travel but not the food poisoning. I actually ate very well in State College, PA (Herwig's).