The first time my family was hit with the dreaded norovirus, I actually didn’t realize what the heck was happening. My son was a young breastfeeding toddler who still spit up sometimes, so I thought he was just waking up in the middle of the night to chuck up some extra breastmilk. But when he seemed to be “spitting up” every 20 minutes, and was clearly very uncomfortable, it became abundantly clear what was going on.
He was quite ill for several days, we had to do a zillion loads of laundry, and it took him weeks to fully recover. I still remember literally begging for him to take a few sips of Gatorade in his sippy cup. It was a scary and exhausting experience. And of course, just a few days later, I got the sickest I’d ever remembered being.
Stomach viruses – especially when they last for many hours or days – can be traumatic events indeed. Since that first time all those years ago, our family has dealt with its fair share of stomach viruses, and while the whole experience hasn’t become less dreadful by any means, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade that have helped me feel more able to deal with them. For example:
1. Put a plastic grocery bag in the puke bucket.
It wasn’t until our last bout with norovirus – more than a decade since I became a mom – that I figured this one out. I’ve always kept a clean bucket under our sink, knowing I can run to get it if either of my kids seem pukey. But it’s always such a gross and inefficient chore to clean it. Then I started lining the bucket with a plastic bag, and it’s been a total game-changer. Just trash the bag after the puking is over. It saves you the chore of having to clean the bucket out each time – plus it reduces the chances of getting puke in your sink and everywhere else.
2. Use a medicine dropper to get your baby/toddler hydrated.
Once the first few hours of constant puking are over, it’s so important to make sure your child rehydrates. But many kids are really hesitant to put anything in their mouth, which totally makes sense. When your child can’t tolerate drinking, you can use a medicine dropper to feed them water or rehydration drinks (like Pedialyte or Gatorade). Make sure you sit them up with you do it. It’s especially useful for our littlest folks, who can’t easily be persuaded to take a few sips.
3. Make rehydration popsicles.
Very often I’d hear my kids complain of a sore throat after vomiting. After surmising that they weren’t coming down with some other freaking virus on top of everything else (which I guess is theoretically possible, God help us all), I realized that their throats were probably sore from all the retching. Poor honeys.
Enter “rehydration popsicles.” Take your favorite rehydration drink or a plain juice (but beware high sugar content, which can upset little tummies) and freeze it into popsicles. Not only will they soothe your little ones’ throats, but they will help hydrate any reluctant post-puke drinker.
4. Invest in a good cleaner.
If you have little kids, got get yourself some of this stuff, PRONTO.
It’s called Nature’s Miracle, and I swear I am not being paid to say this, but it truly is a miracle. It actually gets the nastiest smells – including puke, poop, and pee – out of almost any material. I’m sure there are other comparable brands on the market, too. What you are looking is something that is more than a simple soap or detergent, but that contains enzymes to break down and destroy those hard-to-eradicate odors.
5. Don’t be afraid to just throw shit out.
When my kids first started getting stomach viruses, I would try to launder all the puked-on clothing, bedding, etc. But as the years have gone on, I’ve been less fully on board with this, and have just started to throw the nastiest stuff right in the trash. I know it’s not thrifty or environmentally conscious, but there are times as parents we need to cut ourselves some extra slack, and this is one area where I’m willing to do this. I’m giving you permission to do this too.
6. Cover all surfaces with towels.
When one of my kids is in the throes of a puke-fest, I will surround them with towels. Every towel in the damn house. Towels are absorbent, and are much easier to clean than the upholstery of a couch. Throw a bunch of towels on the bed, and you won’t have to change the sheets quite as many times. On that note, it is wise to invest in a mattress protector … which you can use until your kids go to college. At least.
7. Bleach the heck out of everything.
I didn’t learn until my 4th or 5th bout with a kid stomach bug that bleach and hydrogen peroxide are pretty much the only cleaners that kills norovirus. Yep, while soaps and other cleaners can help, bleach is the only one that really destroys the bug. Even Lysol doesn’t do a damn thing. So invest in some bleach. Even if you don’t use it regularly for cleaning, you will want to use whatever it takes to squash out those nasty norovirus germs. Trust me.
Really, just thinking about a puke-fest puts me on edge, and when I hear that norovirus is going around my community, I become extra anxious and hypervigilant. These little hacks haven’t made the sleeplessness and nastiness of the whole experience go away. But they’ve helped me manage my stress a little better, which definitely counts for something.
Here’s hoping you don’t need to use these tricks anytime soon, but if you do, they are here for you. And remember that as horrible as a stomach flu is, it’s usually over before you know it, and that all-night-puke-a-thon will soon be a distant – but very nauseating – memory.