One year, we got the stomach flu. It was an awful flu with a day of food poisoning level vomiting, a day of sporadic vomiting, and 3 days of the shits. With 3 kids and a husband, we all caught it in shifts, and then re-caught it in shifts, for like 3 months straight. I caught it 3 times in a row. Since then, I’ve become an expert on the stomach bug because fuck the stomach bug; fuck that fucking fucker bastard. Kill the stomach flu. Kill it with fire.
About the Stomach Flu
I don’t think it’s actually a flu, not like most doctors use the word flu. We just call it that.
Most stomach bugs are viral, which is why most don’t go to the doctor unless they are just obtaining an excuse note for school (because schools are assholes); however, when bacteria causes flu like symptoms, we usually call it food poisoning.
Some bugs aren’t that bad. You have a little tummy ache and some poops, or maybe just a horrible tummy ache for a day with one or two vomit episodes. Some bugs suck so bad and make you throw up all day, almost nonstop, and then just a little less every day for 3 days. Sometimes they affect people differently, like one family member hardly notices any symptoms while the other is asking you to write their obituary.
These viruses usually have a 2 day incubation, and can infect someone from hard surfaces for months to come. Norovirus, indefinitely frozen.
The good news about the virus’s ability to infect is that the longer it sits on hard surfaces, the less effective it becomes. It doesn’t stop infecting all the sudden, so if it’s still there in 3 months, it might not be strong enough to make you sick.
This is mainly about the real shitty flu bugs. I mean if you get the poops for a few hours, you don’t have to go this insane (though some of the advice is still relevant), but if one family member gets it bad, you want to treat it like it’s lice.
Best Strategy for Managing Sick People
Make some things off limits. If they don’t need to be there, that’s just more stuff you have to disinfect. Keep stomach bug people in certain areas, like their bed and bathroom. It’s worth waiting on them hand and foot than to risk them contaminating the inside of your fridge.
Pukers should Shower after Every Puke. If possible, create a routine where you puke, when you’re done, before going anywhere else in the house, you strip, put your clothes in a corner, and get into the bath tub and shower off. Puking makes the germs splatter everyfreakingwhere.
Hand Wash. Hand Wash. Hand Wash. Make sure everyone washes their hands after puking (if they don’t bathe) and pooping, in warm water, 20 seconds minimum, rigorously. Hand Sanitizer is useless here. Everyone should just up their hand washing game during the symptoms and at least 3 days after symptoms reside.
Treating the Symptoms. One thing I noticed with viral stomach bugs is that most anti-nausea meds only make the cramping worse when taken orally (though the IV methods in the hospital usually stop vomiting and pain). Whatever the person has, they need to get rid of it. So you do want them to let it out to an extent. The best thing for puking is old school: saltine crackers and small sips of Diet Sprite. It won’t stop it, but it will nurse you through it.
Watch for Dehydration. This is the most important part of being Dr. Mom, and it’s not so easy when you are your own patient. Symptoms to look for include dry mouth, flushed cheeks, fever or fever symptoms without the fever, headaches, dizziness, and cravings for sweets. You can also pinch the skin (like grab 1-2 inches of flesh with your thumb and forefinger), and let go. If it bounces back like the cake is done, hydrated. If it goes back slower or sinks in at all like the cake needs a few more minutes, dehydrated. Also, you can also check the urine. The darker the color, the more dehydrated the person is. Replenish fluids to the best of your ability. I often give my kids lots of popsicles in addition to a glass of water I fill regularly. If they can’t hold fluids down, you may want to go to the ER for them to be given fluids in an IV (bring a thick throw because that always makes people cold).
Autism is Different. A lot of websites tell you to go healthy digestive foods with probiotics while recovering from serious vomiting. If you or your kid has autism with the GI Tract issue, probiotics will make it worse. In some autism, there’s a bacteria that isn’t found in anyone who doesn’t have autism. Feeding that bacteria causes tummy aches and fatigue. Instead, increase starchy foods. Aim for cinnamon toast instead of applesauce.
Most disinfectants don’t cover Norovirus, and this stuff gets in everything that you can’t always use a disinfectant on it. Here are some sure fire ways to disinfect stomach bugs.
- Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfecting Cleaner
- 2 cups Bleach per Gallon of Water
- Boiling Water (or any water over 160 degrees F)
Note: The Clorox mentioned above is very expensive, and the only place I can find it is on Amazon, but it’s worth it for the ease during stomach bug season. I am starting to use it more frequently than before, but I try to reserve it for purposes of disinfecting only.
Best Strategy for Stomach Bug Disinfecting
Disinfect Everything. If ANYONE touches the area at all during the duration of one person’s stomach bug, then hit everything ANYONE has touched. If you don’t use the Clorox product mentioned earlier, disinfect everything with 2 cups of bleach per gallon of water with a 10 minute wet time.
Follow the invisible poop and puke trail. Start at the point of bodily fluid dump and work your way to everything that was touched. Be more anal retentive OCD about disinfecting near the toilet and any place anyone had an accident, and as you spread out, you can be more “that’s good enough.”
Launder Separately. Stomach bugs can spread to other clothes in the wash. Keep stomach bug clothes and bedding in a separate area. Hand wash in a place you can stop it up (sink or bath tub), and then dump boiling water over it enough to cover it up, let sit for a minute, and then add cold water before draining to prevent burns. Water has to be 160 degrees to kill this crap, and boiling water averages 220. If you can use bleach, you can do 2 cups of that for every gallon of water instead in the washing machine. When dealing with bedding, it might be best to use only bedding that can be bleached during this time.
Disinfect Dishes. Most dishwashers don’t go hot enough to disinfect. Don’t count on the dishwasher in this case. Do the 2 cups of bleach for every gallon of water, and let dishes soak in that for 10 minutes, or let them sit in boiling water for a minute.
Dump the Ice. Three days after everyone is better, dump all the ice in the freezer and wash ice container in really hot water for at least 20 seconds. Norovirus lasts indefinitely frozen.
Wait it’s not over. People are still contagious for at least 3 days after they start feeling better. Keep up the disinfecting strategy for at least that long. Don’t allow immunocompromised people in your house for at least 3 WEEKS after everyone is feeling better.
The key to proper germ management is to manage germs. There are good bacteria out there you don’t want to kill, and some things help us build an immunity (the stomach bug isn’t one of them).