Traveler’s Stomach Is No Joke: Be Prepared

No one wants their holiday to be interrupted by food poisoning. And even the best restaurants and cruise ships can suffer from lax food handling or a bad shipment of shellfish. You or a family member may well experience the effects.

Fortunately, most food-borne illnesses are short-lived and easily treated. But some cases of food poisoning, like salmonella, are more serious and can have a lasting impact if not treated promptly. Only expert medical attention and prescriptions will alleviate the symptoms and kill the bad bacteria in your system.

So if you do become sick, the best solution is to head immediately to the nearest medical facility. A word to the wise: Be sure to take your passport, as some facilities won’t treat you without documentation.

Before you go, check your travel insurance policy. A robust policy will reimburse you for medical expenses abroad and for losses incurred if you become so ill you have to cut your trip short. Many travel policies also offer 24-hour access to a medical helpline if you fall ill abroad.

To help ensure you receive reimbursement when you come home, keep receipts for all treatments and prescriptions, and consider photographing any unsafe or unsanitary conditions that may have caused your illness.

Also before you leave, tell your physician where you’re traveling, because you may need vaccinations. And ask if there’s something to take at the first sign of stomach discomfort; he or she may prescribe an antibiotic to carry with you just in case.

A recent article in listed the top 10 “bucket list” travel destinations for Americans. The big five are Australia, Italy, Ireland, New Zealand, and Mediterranean cruises. Most of Marketwatch’s destinations seem unlikely places to catch a stomach bug, but wherever you go, food poisoning is always a possibility.

Purchasing good travel insurance before you leave will give you peace of mind.