How to survive getting sick on the road
There we were, sitting in the middle of street food alley, Luang Prabang, enjoying the vast array of goodies on the table, from barbecued fish, pork, noodles, Khao Soy and icy cold Beerlao. It was a veritable feast and oh so delicious. Eating like kings for next to no Kip, we retired to bed that evening satisfied and ready for a long night's sleep.
Then, it came. At about 3am, Mark awoke feeling pretty shitty (we went there, sorry!) and rushed to the toilet; 20 minutes later another rush, then another; you get the drill. Day broke and the hike to remote northern Laos villages we were both so excited for was cancelled; Mark could barely move.
Hours past and at 3pm, Mark still curled up in bed, Miranda felt the same stomach twinges. Sure enough, we were both struck down with what we assume was food poisoning. Damn that delicious street food! For the next 24 hours, any mouthful of food and every sip of water either came back up or went straight through.
Emaciated, lacking energy and in severe pain, our bodies slowly started to recover and eventually, 48 hours later we were back to normal (well, almost).
HOW TO SURVIVE GETTING SICK ON THE ROAD
SEEK/GIVE MORAL AND PRACTICAL SUPPORT
Well, we were lucky enough to have each other, although we would have probably preferred to be alone to save face. For the first 12 hours, Miranda acted as moral support, the replenisher of water and the enforcer of food intake.
Then, it was Mark’s turn.
Our tip | Even if you’re travelling by yourself, get a travel or hostel friend, or even the owner to act as your guardian angel and check up on you every few hours, as well as fetching water for you. Pay them in hugs later!
DRINK LOTS OF FLUIDS
During our time of struggle, we insisted the sickest person drink water, and lots of it. While hard, this was a key component of making it through our food poisoning relatively unscathed. We were lucky enough to have Hydralyte, a rehydration solution packed full of electrolytes.
Our tip | Drink as much water as humanly, possible, even if you feel it is going straight through you. If you don't have Hydralyte or Gastrolyte, there is a simple solution of water, salt and sugar which will help you get back to normal. In 1L water, heap six (6) level teaspoons of sugar and half (1/2) level teaspoon of salt. It’ll taste like hell, but fight through it.
ATTEMPT TO EAT FOOD
Much to our displeasure, both of us forced bread upon the other. It was horrible, but eventually we thanked each other. Eating plain, bland foods helps you build up your strength again without upsetting your tummy.
Our tip | Bread or toast, bananas, broths and rice are viable options when you’re struggling with food poisoning. Try to steer clear of fatty foods!
SLEEP IT OFF
We were visiting the toilet every 10-20 minutes for a good 12-24 hours. It wasn’t pleasant and made it incredibly hard to sleep. But we got a little, thankfully.
Our tip | If you can, try to sleep as much as possible; your body will recover much quicker.
REARRANGE YOUR PLANS (IF POSSIBLE)
As said, we had grand plans to visit the northern Laos mountains and visit indigenous hill tribes. Unfortunately, we had to cancel. We also pushed out our departure date from Luang Prabang to allow more time to recover; we could never imagine sitting on an overnight bus for 12 hours with stomach issues.
Our tip | If time permits, push out your plans to allow that extra time to recover.
As we lay in bed in the foetal position, we debated long and hard about whether to take Imodium; we didn't want to feel sick any longer (we’re not sure who won). We are thankful we didn't take it, as our recovery time was much quicker.
Our tip | Try to steer clear of medication such as Imodium unless absolutely essential (an unavoidable bus or train ride, for instance). If the overall problems persist, then go and see a doctor as the issue might not be food poisoning, but something more sinister.
WHEN YOU'RE ON THE MEND
As we started to recover, we made a point of getting out of a damp dorm room and going for a walk. It made a world of good as the sun touched our skin for the first time in a day.
Our tip: If you are feeling up for it, make a point of venturing outside, soaking up some fresh air and start aiding the recovery process. You’ll feel much better for it.
Our experience was horrible, and potentially not the last on our 10 month journey, however we now feel we are equipped to handle whatever dodgy street food (or any type of food) comes past our plate.
Note: We are not doctors and the above is meant as a guide to how we handled the recovery process. If problems persist, please see a doctor or visit a chemist.
Have you survived getting sick on the road? How did you survive it? Tell us in the comments below.