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How Can I Get a Doctor’s Note for Food Poisoning

May 25, 2024 • read

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How Can I Get a Doctor’s Note for Food Poisoning

Balancing work and health can be challenging, especially when sudden illnesses like food poisoning occur. Food poisoning symptoms often hit you fast and hard and can keep you stuck at home sick for days.

Given that fluids and rest are crucial for treating food poisoning, visiting your doctor’s office or a walk-in clinic for a note to prove your illness can be counterproductive. Despite this, many schools and workplaces mandate sick notes for absences or to become eligible for sick leave or other benefits. If you think you may have food poisoning and your work or school is asking for proof, we’re here to equip you with the knowledge you need to know the symptoms that mean it’s time to seek treatment and how you can get a doctor’s note. 

Recognizing the symptoms of food poisoning

Depending on the type of bacteria, virus, or parasite involved and how much of the food you ate, food poisoning symptoms can start from hours to days or weeks after consumption and last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

While you may feel weak and miserable, most cases of food poisoning are mild and result in these common symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tenesmus (frequent urge to use the bathroom)
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Fever 

Less frequently, severe and potentially life-threatening cases can cause symptoms such as diarrhea lasting longer than three days, severe dehydration like dry mouth or little to no urination, brachycardia (slowed heartbeat) and numbness or pins and needles in the limbs. Learn more about diagnosing and treating food poisoning here.

Scheduling an appointment with your doctor

It can often take a few days to get an in-person appointment with your healthcare provider, so if you’re concerned that you have food poisoning, try to set one up as soon as possible.

In the meantime, it’s a good idea to track your symptoms as they’ll help your healthcare provider make a diagnosis. You’ll also want to make a list of what you ate in the lead-up to your illness. This can help to narrow down the source of your poisoning and inform treatment. 

How telehealth can help with food poisoning

If visiting your doctor in person is difficult, virtual care with Maple can be an alternative. With Maple, there’s no need to wait for an in-person appointment, and the app can connect you with a primary care provider within minutes to discuss your symptoms and receive a diagnosis, ensuring timely access to the care you need.

What’s more, going anywhere can be challenging when you’re coping with a bout of food poisoning. Even if your doctor offers same-day appointments, your symptoms may make it hard to get there. And if you’re among the 6.5 million Canadians who don’t have a primary care provider, finding a doctor may be even more daunting.

Virtual care eliminates the need to leave your house, letting you chat with the doctor virtually through your phone, tablet, or computer from wherever you are — even if that’s the bathroom floor.

With virtual care, getting a prescription to treat your food poisoning, ordering lab tests to confirm a diagnosis, or receiving a doctor’s note for your work or school can all be done from the comfort of your home.

And, since your digital records are stored securely in our app and any prescriptions are sent to your home or the pharmacy of your choice, you won’t be stuck hunting for a paper rx or calling your doctor’s office to track down documentation of your illness after the fact.

When to visit an urgent care centre

While there’s little doubt that food poisoning feels awful, most mild cases can be safely treated at home with lots of fluids and rest. To stay hydrated, take small sips of water or rehydration fluids consistently throughout the day.

Keep in mind, however, that even mild cases can cause fluid loss from ongoing vomiting and diarrhea. If you can’t replace this lost fluid, dehydration can quickly follow and become dangerous.

If you’re having trouble keeping fluids down, you may require IV rehydration fluids, so keep an eye on how much you’re taking in.

In addition, pay attention to the following symptoms. If you’re experiencing any of them, it’s time to head to your nearest urgent care centre:

  • Vomiting too much to keep fluids down
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Sudden, severe belly pain
  • Signs of severe dehydration, including little to no urine, sunken eyes, dizziness, fast breathing and heartbeat, confusion
  • If you think your food poisoning is from canned food, look for signs that you’re having trouble swallowing or breathing, your vision is blurred or you feel weak

Providing details to the doctor

The symptoms of food poisoning aren’t unique, which can sometimes make it hard to distinguish it from similar conditions like the stomach flu. To help your healthcare provider make the most accurate diagnosis, be prepared to provide details about your illness.

Your healthcare provider will need to know what you ingested and approximately how soon after eating you began to feel ill. If you share a meal with someone, they’ll likely want to know if they’re also experiencing similar symptoms.

Before your appointment, try to record as many details as possible about what you ate recently and how much you consumed. Since your doctor will also need to know if you’re taking any medications, prepare a list of any current medications and supplements along with their dosages.

Requesting a doctor’s note

If you’ve requested a doctor’s note for food poisoning at an in-person appointment, your provider will typically give you a paper copy. However, if you see one of our doctors virtually, you’ll receive a digital copy of a note in PDF format.

In either case, the note should state the name and contact details of the medical professional who assessed you, along with the date of your consultation, a confirmation of your diagnosis, and your name and contact details.

While your work or school may want a note detailing how long you’ll be absent, even the best doctors don’t have a crystal ball. Instead, they may be able to include an estimate of how long you’ll be out sick based on the average duration of the illness (if this is a necessary part of the note).

Please keep in mind, however, that the duration recommended in the sick note is at the discretion of the medical professional. And, if you’re sick longer than expected, it’s a good idea to have another appointment for a re-assessment and to receive a new note. 

Following up with your employer or school

Once you have your doctor’s note, submitting it is usually straightforward. Depending on the policies of your work or school, this may mean emailing it directly to your boss or teacher or sending it to HR or another department.

Whatever the case, emailing the note and asking for confirmation of its receipt is a great way to document the exchange in case of any future issues or confusion.

How to prevent food poisoning in the future

Food poisoning can come from a variety of sources and it’s no fun getting it. Your best bet is to avoid dealing with it in the first place by following safe food handling guidelines and not eating anything that’s been sitting around too long.

However, since even the strictest protocols can’t always prevent an episode of food poisoning, know that options are available if you get sick. If you’re among the 6.5 million Canadians who don’t have a primary care provider, Maple allows you to see a doctor or nurse practitioner for prescriptions, diagnoses, and sick notes. 

The information presented here is for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the advice from your medical professional. Virtual care is not meant for medical emergencies. If you are experiencing an emergency like chest pain or difficulties breathing, for example, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

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