What to do when you get food poisoning in Vietnam

Everytime I traveled to Vietnam, I’ve been lucky enough to doge food poisoning. It might help that I’m a vegetarian, but it’s not like I’ve never gotten food poisoned in my life – quite the contrary. If the food is contaminated, you won’t escape the inevitable food poisoning. But even though I never ate bad food in Vietnam, two of my friends did, on separate occasions. It’s never fun laying in bed all day long, but there’s steps you can take to make sure that your food poisoning doesn’t ruin your vacation. Let’s see what happens when you get food poisoned, how you can prevent it and what to do about it.

Symptoms – how to know if you have it

Is your stomach behaving odd after a meal? This could be signs that you’ve eaten contaminated food. Some of the main symptoms for food poisoning include: vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever. It either hits you within a few hours or after a day or two after eating the contaminated food. The sickness caused by the food generally lasts a few hours to several days, even weeks at times!

When should I go see a doctor?

It’s easy to postpone a trip to the doctor, especially when you’re abroad. However, if you feel bad for a longer period and you don’t seem to get better, you should go see a doctor immediately, especially if you notice that you have a high fever, feel dehydrated or have blood in your stool. Also seek immediate medical attention if you’ve had diarrhea for more than three days and you show symptoms of dehydration (dry mouth, weakness, little or no urination). It’s always better to go to the doctor and get medical care so you can continue traveling, rather than staying in bed and hoping that the symptoms will pass.

How to prevent getting food poisoned in Vietnam

Usually, street food is safe to eat in Vietnam. But there’s never a guarantee that you won’t eat food that’s been contaminated. Avoid eating raw meat, undercooked seafood such as clams, scallops and oysters, undercooked eggs, unpasteurised milk and soft cheese. If you’re going to eat fruit, try to opt for the ones that you have to peel, such as bananas. When it comes to ice, avoid the ones that are crushed. It’s usually not the ice itself that you need to avoid, but the hands that’s crushed the ice. You should also always carry around a hand sanitizer, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap before and after eating, and if you can, boil your water. Although you can always buy bottled water, the bottles might be tampered with our are outdated. It’s also always a good idea to skip buying plastic water bottles. Instead, buy a reusable water bottle that you can refill. It’ll be cheaper for you and much better for the environment.

What to do when you’ve gotten food poisoned

You’ve taken all the precautions, but you still got food poisoned. It’s okay, it happens to everyone! Our stomach might not be used to the bacteria we’re exposed to abroad, so sometimes these situations are inevitable. But when you’ve gotten food poisoned, it’s very important to take treat it right. It’s fairly simple to cure. What you need to do when you’ve gotten food poisoned is to:

  • Stay hydrated!

Rule number one is to remain hydrated. You can rehydrate your body by drinking coconut water, which is one of the best drinks you can have when you’ve gotten food poisoned. Natural coconut water contains five key electrolytes: calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and phosphorus. But if you can’t get a hold of it, try to drink Gatorade, Sprite, or similar. Water is always a good idea too. You shouldn’t drink caffeine as it may irritate the digestive tract. Instead, opt for decaffeinated teas such as chamomile, peppermint and dandelion teas that will calm your upset stomach.

  • Don’t pass it on to someone else

Stay inside, stay isolated. It doesn’t sound like the most fun perhaps, but it’s better than to pass it on to someone else.

  • Rest for a few days

Even if you’re starting to feel good after a few hours, make sure that you get a lot of proper rest. Although it’s tempting to start traveling again and do all the adventurous things you want to do, such as go climbing, swimming, biking, etc, your body probably needs more than a few hours to recover. Stay inside for a few days, open Netflix, and make sure that you’ve gotten enough rest before you start planning new adventures. You’ll be able to enjoy your time in Vietnam much more then.