Coping Strategies for the Stomach Bug

Thursday February 16, 2012


So, the stomach bug hit our house last weekend, and didn’t leave until Valentine’s Day.   It started with our middle child puking Thursday night/Fri morning, and then progressively moved through our other two children. It also hit Mike pretty hard for a few days, while I remained operational.  Just when I thought I was out of the woods, I got served Monday night.   Thankfully, this particular bug, tho nasty, doesn’t stick around too long.

While I don’t have any great strategies to avoid the stomach bug (obviously, we FAILED on that front), I do have some tips to make it easier to survive.

The first one will always catch you off guard, but after that, you can be employ the Girl Scout motto and Be Prepared.

Tips for Surviving the Stomach Flu

1.  Stop Feeding the Sick Child — Including Water!

This ought to be a no-brainer, but the the no water thing is really hard.   After someone  vomits, they feel gross and dehydrated.  Our kids would ask for water, but even a tiny bit would send them back to puking a short while later.   I suggest letting them rinse their mouth out, but then spit the water out.   Usually, after throwing up, the child would be weak/tired and go to sleep.  When they woke later, I would give them a tiny amount of water (like 1 tablespoon in a medicine dispenser cup) and if that stayed down for 30+ minutes, then I’d add a little more.

But the first 4 -12 hours, they aren’t going to be able to hold down very much.

1.A.  Re-introduce Bland Foods Slowly

When the child does feel better and feels like eating, go with the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.   The stomach is still delicate and you don’t want to re-upset it.   My kids would ask for food and I offered them toast or plain Cheerios, but not right away.  Usually, in the beginning of the day after, they thought they wanted to eat, but then they’d dose off or be otherwise distracted and not be interested in eating what I made.  Go with it, they will want more when they are ready for it, until then, less is more.

2.  Layer Bedding so it’s easy to strip and wash.

Chances are, your child is going to puke in bed.  And then you are up at 2am, washing bed sheets, pajamas, and mattress pad.   But now that child has to lay down and try and sleep again, and odds are, the puking ain’t over yet.   What do you do?

What worked best for us was to use bath or beach towels as a protective layer over the bedding.  If you look in the photo above, we put a beach towel down over the sheets, then a bath towel over the pillow.   Then, we put the sick child in a washable sleeping bag, because that will contain the yuck and they are easy to throw in the wash.

Once I figured this out (by the second or third child), clean-up became much easier.

2.A.  Keep a Barf Bucket Handy

We’ve got a bowl in our house designated as the barf bucket.  It doesn’t get used (often) for cooking or food prep, but it gets pulled out in a hurry when someone says their stomach hurts.    Keep it on the bed, next to the child, and, depending on age/coherence, they might actually use it.

3. Clear the Splatter Zone

If you’ve got a sick kid and you are putting them back in bed, take a good hard look around and see what might be impacted if they sit up and puke again.   In our case, we have book bins under the bed, scattered toys on the floor and who knows what else.    Move everything AWAY from the yuck zone.

Ancillary note:  do not put the sick child in the top bunk!   (I won’t point any fingers, but hopefully that won’t happen again.)  Figure out a better solution, like moving the healthy child out of the bottom bunk to your own bed to clear room for the sicko.    Side note #2:  don’t put the sick child in your own bed — you WILL regret it!

4. Protect Yourself with Gloves

By child #3, I knew I didn’t want to get anywhere near the mess if I could help it.  When she puked, I threw some baby wipes at her and then ran downstairs for some disposable gloves.   I did not touch anything with my bare hands and washed everything in super hot water.   Any cleaning of any mess was done with gloves (and no touching of my own face!).

5. Wipe Down Surfaces

If I had been better at this, I might possibly have minimized the contagion.  Use Clorox Wipes (or similar cleaner, or green stuff if that’s how you roll) and wipe down all the common hand-touchable areas:  doorknobs, light switches, bathroom sinks and toilet handles.

I also removed the drinking cups from the bathroom as my kids tend to share indiscriminately.

Thankfully, although this bug is yucky to deal with, it runs it course quickly.  And for the most part, when the kids are actively puking, they lay low and sleep, thus aren’t too miserable to be around.

I am happy that we survived and are a healthy household again.  Hopefully these tips prove useful for someone else — though I hope you have no need of them!

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