All parents have been there at one time or another. First your child hardly touches their dinner, and even rejects dessert. The next thing you know, they’ve turned white and are barfing all over their iPad (true story).
Kids puke for all sorts of reasons, but the main cause of vomiting in both kids and adults is norovirus. Oh, norovirus, how we parents dread you so. Although I complain any time my kids get sick (which is, OMG, so often), the times they bring stomach viruses home are the absolute worst.
Besides how awful it is to see your child uncontrollably vomiting or having diarrhea (sometimes both at the same time, so help me God), the problem with norovirus is that it’s almost impossible to contain. Once one of my kids starts spewing, I immediately block out the next week on our calendar because I know that everyone in our family – one by one – will fall to the horrid bug.
Because of that fact, I have tried really hard over the years to learn everything I can about the notorious norovirus, with the hopes that I will somehow be able to stop my family from falling like dominoes from the plague. And I’ve had some success. Well, not a whole lot, but definitely some.
What I can say for sure is that I’ve learned a lot about the science behind eliminating norovirus. And the fact is, there are a lot of myths out there about how to prevent it from spreading. So I think it might be useful to set the record straight.
Let’s start with the obvious. Just as you suspected, norovirus is extremely freaking contagious, more so than most viruses. As the New York Times points out in a recent, very informative article about the virus, it only takes 20 particles of norovirus to make someone sick, and just one tablespoon of puke contains 15 million viruses. Holy shit.
Not only that, but the stuff is really hardy, and can live on surfaces for as long as 42 days. This makes sense, because I’m sure you’ve experienced times when one person in your house got sick but the other people didn’t seem to catch it until many days, or even a week, later.
OK, so what can you do to kill those mofos, and how should you go about it?
This is where all those pieces of misinformation come into play. Basically, there are just a few scientifically proven methods to kill and contain the germs – and many completely fabricated, unproven methods. Sigh.
Let’s break it down.
Wash Your Damn Hands
Washing your hands – and any part of your body that comes into contact with norovirus – is on the “yes” list here. Scrub your hands with soap each time you use the bathroom or clean up someone’s vomit. Get into those knuckles and under those fingers nails.
However, don’t rely on hand sanitizer. That shit will do nothing for norovirus, sadly.
Whip Out The Bleach
Contrary to popular belief, Lysol and even Clorox wipes do not kill norovirus. Kind of shocking, right?
As the Times points out, there are only two cleaning products that actually kill those bastards: bleach and hydrogen peroxide. It’s recommended that you mix about a cup of bleach with a gallon of water and then get down to wiping surfaces. You should leave the bleach solution on these surfaces for at least 5-10 minutes to give it time to work.
Oh, and clean every damn surface, including the toilet flusher and light switch – pretty much anywhere barf may have landed. Remember, too, that norovirus is airborne (sorry), so bleach all the surfaces within a 25 foot radius.
This is the one I find hardest to accomplish, especially with a one-bathroom family home, and kids who, ummm, refuse to be quarantined. But really, your best bet is to get your barfer their own barf-room (errr, bathroom), and keep them away from everyone else. Remember, too, that the person who was sick will be contagious for several days after the fact.
Don’t bother with apple cider vinegar (ACV) or grape juice
Anyone who has tried to fight the good fight with norovirus has found a million articles on the internet about how consuming ACV or grape juice as soon as the virus hits your house can change your body’s pH so as to make it uninhabitable to norovirus.
I’ve definitely tried these, and have thought that maybe they worked. But according to Dr. Mary Wikswo, from the CDC, it was likely all in my imagination. “[N]orovirus grows in the small intestine, so changing the stomach environment is really not going to do you much good,” she told the Times.
The whole thing sound utterly confusing and exhausting, huh? Yeah, the times that I have really tried my best to contain norovirus were probably as time consuming and troublesome as actually suffering through the virus. And my success rate wasn’t exactly stellar. I think I’ve kept it to one family member only about 30% of the time, and that may have only been some dumb luck.
Still, it’s definitely worth a shot, right?
The good news is that while norovirus is an incredibly disgusting nuisance, it is usually a short-lived virus when it hits you, with most of us feeling better in 24-48 hours. And unless you have a compromised immune system or become dangerously dehydrated, it is not going to harm you terribly.
So definitely try these measures to minimize norovirus’s nasty spread, sticking to things that are proven to actually work. And then, cross your fingers and toes your family lucks out and isn’t all puking for the next week straight.