Food Poisoning Before Flying

surgical mask on plane

It was 3am when I woke up groaning. My stomach felt weird. Not painful, not bloated, just weird.

I got out of bed and headed straight to the bathroom. Soon enough my head was in the toilet, vomiting. Food poisoning. I didn’t know whether it was the shrimp I’d eaten on a boat trip or the three cheese pasta from that night. I guess I’ll never know.

Looking at the clock I started to panic. Having food poisoning is bad enough, but worse than that, I had to get up in 3 hours and head to the airport. I was due to take a plane that morning. It was only an hour long flight but I didn’t know if I could handle it. I searched the Internet for help. Was there an instant miracle cure for food poisoning?

The answer is no. There is not. The only way to get through food poisoning is to let the bad bacteria leave your system. Either through vomiting or worse – diarrhea. I prayed that wouldn’t hit me too. I started to panic. As always I started to get the What Ifs.

I wasn’t just worried about the flight. I was worried about getting to the airport. Could I last the one hour ride in the taxi without vomiting everywhere or even worse, shitting myself?

I had a look at my insurance to see if it might cover me for flight cancellation when sick, but my policy was so vague that I couldn’t understand it. Can anybody understand those damn things? I checked online for flights in a few days time –  too expensive. Even a few more nights would cost me a load of money. I realised that there was only one thing I could do and that was take the flight.

Soon it was time to leave, I hadn’t managed to get back to sleep. Too busy worrying about what would happen. I’d stopped vomiting but my whole body was shaking. I was weak. My body was shouting at me, “Just roll into a ball and close your eyes!”

Somehow I made it downstairs to checkout and into a taxi. My hand squeezed a small plastic bag tightly. If I was going to be sick, at least it wouldn’t be on the floor. I could just go into the plastic bag.

The road on the way to the airport was like riding a bull, bumping up and down. Each time the car hit a pothole my stomach churned.

In my head I kept telling myself that in 5 or so hours it would all be over. The flight would be done, we’d be at a new hotel. Then I could lie in bed, close my eyes and vomit anywhere I pleased.

When the taxi arrived at the airport, I could barely lift my bag. It seemed twice as heavy as normal. We stood in line to check-in and I could barely breath. I was sweating. My head was swimming and I felt groggy. I drank some water but when it hit my stomach it made me feel nauseous.

Bags checked in, I rushed through customs. My stomach was groaning. As soon as I was through passport control I rushed to the bathroom, pulled up the lid and brought my head down. There on the toilet was a streak of brown shit. The smell of another person’s excrement hit my nostrils and I needed no other excuse. I vomited the little water I had managed to drink and started the process again.

I seemed to spend an eternity waiting at the gate for the plane to start boarding. As the minutes passed me by I simply told myself that was one minute closer to a bed.

I panicked about the flight. I was convinced I was going to vomit everywhere and I would make a terrible scene. I told Jamie that I’d like to sit by the window so that nobody could see me being sick, but then I started to worry that I’d get stuck in my seat if I needed to rush to the toilet.

Eventually we boarded and the seat beside us was empty. I prayed nobody would sit in it. Soon the doors were closed and the seat remained empty. As the plane took off I frantically grabbed a paper bag, but my stomach was fine. Once the plane was in the air I lay down over the seats in the foetal position and rested. I counted each minute until I heard the pilot announce our landing.

As soon as we landed, I pushed my way off the plane relieved that I’d survived. Everything after that was easy. I kept tight a hold of my plastic bag but as time passed I felt I needed it less. Eventually I decided to just put it in my pocket.

Soon we were at the hotel. Checked in. In our room. I collapsed on the bed. Fell asleep. Already feeling better because I was less stressed. For the next few days, I still felt ill. The plastic bag stayed in my pocket.

If you get sick before a flight, the only advice I can give you is that you should remember one thing. Eventually It will all be over. You’ll get through it. You’ll survive. One day you’ll no longer need that bag in your pocket.

Photo by  published under a license.


  1. Milly says

    That advice is magic! I so often work myself up and talk myself out of doing things in case I get sick! I am going on a 12 hour plane ride next year and am already thinking about “what if I am sick??”

    • Anxious Travelers says

      Chances are you’ll be fine, I would worry more about being sat next to a baby or being unable to sleep! And boredom. I can never sleep on long flights and I find it hard to concentrate so it can be really dull.

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