When the Stomach Bug Comes to Town: Here’s How to Cope

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a sick little girl laying down, holding her mom’s handMaybe you’re the kind of mom that has dealt with enough stomach bugs in your day that they leave you feeling unnerved. I’m novice enough in my experience that the stomach bug still gives me the willies. No one likes to see their child sick, but then there’s the fear that sets in if mom catches it, and then how will she carry on and do all the things and care for all the people? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

When the stomach bug recently struck my home, my inner mama bear came out because I have a tiny newborn at home. I didn’t want to run the risk of him catching this and becoming dehydrated. So I went to war with the bug.

Comfort and Calm the Chaos

Depending on your child’s age, there are different ways to contain the acute part of the illness. There’s no way lined buckets, bowls, bags, or the toilet were an option for my active 2-year-old, so I resorted to holding her and having a towel at the ready to catch vomit. This ensures minimal clean-up, and I didn’t have to scrub vomit off the floor or my upholstered sofa. Don’t forget to cover your furniture where sick kids are hanging out – waterproof pads or puppy pads work great.

If the family member is old enough to understand and your housing situation allows for it, I would quarantine sick kids and also keep them confined to a separate bathroom.

Confession: Vomit is a struggle for me and it’s hard for me not to react by wanting to get the heck out of there, but I try to dig down deep, keep the gag reflex at bay, and just sit with my child in the sickness. I remember being sick as a child, feeling frightened, and my mom was cool as a cucumber and it helped me feel safe and secure. I aim to do the same, even if I do it so imperfectly.

Clean and Disinfect

Once the acute part of the illness passed, we started to hydrate slowly with small sips of liquid. Gatorade, watered-down juice, popsicles, and ice chips all are a hit with my kiddos. 

While your child is recovering, this is a great time to clean and disinfect. I personally put regular laundry on hold and just washed the soiled laundry and the sick child’s non-soiled clothes. These stomach bug germs are nasty, can survive the most extreme conditions, and I don’t want them intermingling with my other laundry. Be sure to set the washer and dryer to the hottest cycle. I add a cup of hydrogen peroxide (a great disinfectant) to my colors and bleach to my whites.

If you decide to launder non-germ-infested items, I’d run a bleach-only cycle in your washing machine first to get rid of lingering germs. While your laundry is turning, this is where I set out to clean common surfaces in my home. There is no shame in using gloves and wearing a mask when coming in direct contact with vomit and diarrhea, whether it be through a diaper change, cleaning up a vomiting episode, or doing soiled laundry.

There’s no way to clean everything all the time and care for sick kiddos, but I guarantee you might eliminate at least some of the spread in your home by thorough cleaning.

Now, let’s talk cleaning products. I love gentle eco-friendly cleaners, but the stomach bug is not the time to use them. Bleach is the only cleaning agent known to kill the bug, according to the CDC

I like bleach and hydrogen peroxide wipes personally. Wiping down soiled surfaces is crucial, and then also wiping down communal areas once a day definitely helped us limit the spread.

Hang in there with the cleaning even a few days after all symptoms have stopped. Stomach bugs are hearty, and they can live on surfaces for weeks, increasing the chances of more family members falling ill. That being said, we didn’t allow anyone outside our immediate family to spend extended time in our home within one week of all symptoms ending. That’s a parting gift you don’t want to give!

At the end of this particular bug, I, my husband and the baby all remain unscathed, while the bug took down my two oldest children. 

a mom helping her child wash hands to keep germs away

Don’t forget to wash your hands as much as possible, as this is the greatest method of prevention of transmission. Keep some lotion on hand in case hands get dry with handwashing!

I hope you and your family stay well and aren’t bitten by the stomach bug. But if you are, I hope these tips help and that the bug passes quickly!

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