My very first food poisoning question
January 27, 2014 12:09 PM   Subscribe

So, I ate some truly delicious Ethiopian food (lentils, cabbage and potato, collard greens, and okra, plus the bread) I got as takeout from a local place on Friday evening. About 8 hours later I awoke feeling dreadful. I threw up four times over the next 8 hours or so, and I am one of those people who virtually never vomits. I also felt really sick, with a major stomach ache. I have been feeling gradually better since, and am back at work today, but still feel trembly, nauseated and kinda green around the edges. And no bowel movements to date. When am I going to feel like myself again? Do I have to call my doctor?
posted by bearwife to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
Best answer: When was the last time you barfed?

If you're barfing for more than a day or two, see a doctor.

If you barfed for 24h and now are just still feeling weak but no additional barfing then that's normal for a bad bout of food poisoning.

I'm not a doctor. Just a barfer.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:14 PM on January 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

I've had that kind of sudden-onset food poisoning twice; what I'm about to tell you is based on personal anecdote and something I read in a magazine as opposed to actual medical training.

You mention that you vomited; did you also start to get the runs towards the end? If so, that's a telling sign that it was indeed probably a food-borne thing; as the article I read explained, sometimes this kind of food-borne gak makes your body go into "everyone out the nearest exit" mode, and so that's why you start with vomiting and it gradually goes over to diarrhea. The fact that this came on kind of quick for you is also telling - as is the fact that it went away pretty quick too.

The last time this happened to me, it passed really quickly too - I ate some bad kebabs at some restaurant at 11 pm at night, I was throwing up by 1:30 am, was starting to finally settle things down at about 5 am, and I felt pretty worn-out the next morning and just took it easy that day, and by that evening was feeling more myself and the following morning I felt just fine.

Keep taking it easy today, eat a very bland and light meal tonight (like, maybe a clear soup and some crackers, and maybe a little Jello just for the comfort factor) and you should feel better tomorrow. (Call a doctor if you don't, of course, but I predict you will.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:17 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might want to call a 24-hour nurse helpline if your insurance offers it.

In my (thankfully limited) experience with food poisoning/stomach flu, I have not bothered going to the doctor, just taken lots of liquids and eased back into normal food consumption, and definitely one of those times I still felt shaky as much as a week later. The lack of poo is probably within the range of normal, especially if you didn't eat much solid food after the barfing.
posted by mskyle at 12:17 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It may have been food poisoning or it may have been a 24 hour bug.

I had something very similar happen to me. Day 1, chills, dizzy, nauseated, and then combination vomiting and diarrhea. Good times. I went home and pretty much slept for 18 hours.

Day 2, stayed in bed the following day, sipping ginger ale and eating apple sauce.

Day 3, felt a bit faint, but human again. Ate sparingly, but often and felt 100% by bedtime.

You may feel weak from dehydration, so remember to drink lots and lots. Don't challenge your tummy. Bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Scrambled eggs if you like them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:22 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: That seems about normal to me. Last time I got food poisoning, it took a full day after the vomiting stopped before I stopped feeling shaky and felt comfortable eating more than bland food, and then a day or so after that before I felt completely okay. By the end I was mostly feeling blah because of 2 days of not eating much.

No need to call the doctor unless you keep barfing and/or can't keep water down. Try some ginger chews, ginger candy, or crystallized ginger for the nausea.
posted by yasaman at 12:22 PM on January 27, 2014

You may still be a little dehydrated. Drink some water, or some watered-down sports drink (I find the full strength too much when I've been sick, and cutting it down with water makes it better). Eat light, bland food, and get to bed early. You should be basically fine tomorrow, and if not, call your doc.
posted by rtha at 12:22 PM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: You may still be a little dehydrated. Drink some water, or some watered-down sports drink (I find the full strength too much when I've been sick, and cutting it down with water makes it better).

Ooh, that's another good point. I found this page with some more "coming off a digestive issue" tips - they also suggest that the very next day you indeed may be dehydrated a little and you may need to address that. They also suggest things like popsicles along with the tea and sports drink and Jello.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:27 PM on January 27, 2014

When am I going to feel like myself again? Do I have to call my doctor?

I'm not a doctor, just someone who has suffered Delhi Belly, etc. Personally, I wouldn't call a doctor about this, since it sounds like your body is doing a good job of getting all the stuff that didn't agree with it out on its own. I would guess that you'll feel better once it's all out of your system, which can take up to three or four days.

This is kind of disgusting, but I'd try to eat whatever fiber possible (for example, oatmeal), in order to try and get the BM to come ASAP. Once that's over with you'll probably feel loads better. Seconding rtha's sports drink suggestion for the dehydration. Don't eat anything fatty or rich (not that you probably want to). This is -- honestly, no joke -- a great time to make chicken soup.

If your stomach feels sour, Matzos are my Ace-in-the-hole. Even a few bites tend to settle the stomach for a bit.
posted by rue72 at 12:32 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might be able to keep Cream of Wheat down. Of course chicken soup - if the yellow chicken fat is in a blob right under the lid, you could discard it. Activia will help sweeten your stomach. I understand people use yogurt for a laxative, so it might help your other concern. Remember, you vomited a certain amount of food waste, so you might think in terms of replacing that volume with pasta, mashed potatoes etc. to get your system working again.
posted by Cranberry at 12:43 PM on January 27, 2014

Oh, and ginger. Even chewing candied ginger is a big help with nausea.
posted by rue72 at 12:49 PM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: Dammit, came to mention the ginger. Ginger candy or ginger ale do great things for a rumbly stomach. You can let the ginger ale go flat before you drink it if the carbonation will bug you. There are ginger herbal teas, too.

Sorry you got plowed under. This happened to me years ago on a business trip and it really was a wretched 24 hours. You should feel yourself slowly ramping back to normal as the days pass. the BRAT advice above is good. Stay hydrated. Ease back into things.
posted by jquinby at 12:52 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ginger is great for nausea and sensitive stomachs. Also, chamomile and mint teas are also good; peppermint, spearmint, and the like. Tea, especially gentle herbal teas, can help keep you hydrated and also help settle delicate stomachs.

It sounds like you're on the back-end of this, and you'll be fine in another day or two. Remember BART - banana, applesauce, rice, toast - and sip plenty of tea and water as you get yourself back up to speed.
posted by PearlRose at 12:53 PM on January 27, 2014

I would agree with jamaro. It's really important to drink fluids when you are vomiting. Getting dehydrated when you're sick like that can make it a lot worse. I had to go to the hospital once when I couldn't stop throwing up. I was severely dehydrated. If you can stomach water, suck on ice chips.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 12:56 PM on January 27, 2014

Mints are stimulants. The basic "avoid" list a gastro would give you would list mint and mint teas. Camomile is also not the best thing to put in a churning belly.

If you are having any heartburn, even if your stomach is settled down, that's another reason to avoid mint.

Also, if you are tempted to eat fruit avoid blueberries and strawberries and anything with teeny tiny seeds. I once ignorantly though that soft sweet pulpy strawberries would be great during recovery from a nasty virus. My gastro was appalled.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:33 PM on January 27, 2014

Response by poster: Last barf was on Saturday late AM.

I did have one disgusting diarrhea experience Saturday too. No BM since.

Thanks all for the great suggestions. I'll be grabbing some stuff for bananas, applesauce, rice and toast plus some ginger items this evening and continuing to try to get lots of sleep.

On the fence about ratting this place out to the health department.
posted by bearwife at 1:38 PM on January 27, 2014

On the fence about ratting this place out to the health department.

Go ahead, it can't hurt. When this has happened to me in the past I've called the health department and they've taken my info and the name and location of the restaurant. But they said it's unlikely any major action will be taken unless they receive multiple reports (because it's possible I picked it up somewhere else). This might be a local thing so like I said it can't hurt to call.
posted by tommasz at 1:43 PM on January 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

The "BRAT" diet has been discredited in recent years; to the best of my understanding, there's no evidence to support its use.
posted by kmennie at 2:11 PM on January 27, 2014

Please call the Health Dept. For you, this was an unpleasant experience; for an old person or someone with a compromised immune system it could have been very serious.

Glad you are feeling better. Stay hydrated and don't try to eat unless your body really wants it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:38 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another vote here for go ahead and call the Health Dept.: sure, you'd be just one complaint, but yours might be the one that puts them over the "check this place out now" minimum.

Ginger ale (my mom swore by FLAT ginger ale!), bland crackers, lightly-buttered toast, clear soups, bland comfort foods in general: all good. Skip anything spicy or heavy.

And while I agree that this was probably a simple case of food poisoning, another possibility is an allergic reaction to something in the food: the most likely suspects are dairy, nuts, or spices.
posted by easily confused at 4:04 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OK, you all persuaded me, I contacted the Health Department and told them my sad story via their handy electronic form.

This wasn't an allergy, easily confused -- I'm allergic to nothing but clam bellies, and in any event ordered the same dish without ill effect from them for lunch earlier in the week.
posted by bearwife at 4:19 PM on January 27, 2014

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