Stomach bugs are common in kids. The stomach flu, medically known as viral gastroenteritis, is an infection of the intestines. Although most people catch the stomach flu by ingesting contaminated food or water, you also can pick up this infection by coming into contact with an infected person. Children commonly pick up the stomach flu because they have immature immune systems. Stomach flu symptoms typically include diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps and vomiting. You cannot effectively treat the stomach flu, so it is best to avoid getting it.
These are my suggestions for containing the spread of the stomach flu once someone in your house comes down with it:
- Wash your hands like crazy. Don’t forget under your fingernails and forearms.
- Keep the sick person isolated. This is impossible if the sick person is a baby or toddler. But if an older child or adult is sick, they should try to stay in their own room and bathroom. Don’t let other people use the sick bathroom if at all possible. Give them a plastic bag lined trash can to throw up in, unless they prefer being camped out by the toilet.
- Wear disposable gloves when taking care of a sick person. These are the nitrile gloves that I buy on amazon. It is the best deal that I can find. Put gloves on before walking into the sick person’s room and take them off before leaving the room. Keep gloves by the changing table. Wear them to change baby’s diaper at the first sign of diarrhea. Wear the gloves until baby is all clean. Then take them off and throw them out BEFORE you touch baby’s clean diaper and clean clothes. You still need to wash your hands and forearms afterward baby is dressed. It is easier to wear disposable gloves than to clean under your fingernails perfectly.
- Consider wearing a face mask (available in the pharmacy section or on amazon) when sitting with a vomiting child (as long as it doesn’t frighten the child). That will help keep vomit particles from getting directly into your mouth.
- Wear slippers or flip flops when entering the sick person’s room and take them off before leaving. This way you won’t track viruses around the house.
- Clean with bleach or another cleaner that claims to kill norovirus (see my page about cleaning products for a complete list). Use paper towel or wipes to clean up and throw them away. Cleaning with a 10% solution of household bleach in water works great for killing these viruses. However, bleach creates such terrible fumes. I tried cleaning a bathroom with bleach once and the fumes were unbearable. There are also Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide wipes and spray that kill norovirus surrogates. They have a mild odor and don’t create terrible fumes like bleach. The Clorox® Hydrogen Peroxide Spray is great for cleaning vomit and diarrhea off the carpet. They are not available in stores but you can get them on amazon. Regular Clorox wipes and Lysol wipes form the grocery store don’t claim to kill norovirus. Don’t forget doorknobs and light switches. Don’t forget the handle to your diaper disposal system. Clean anything that a stray virus could possibly have landed on. If you can’t get to the store, you can order all of the necessary cleaning supplies on amazon.
- When someone throws up on the carpet or couch, clean it with whatever you can (Clorox® Hydrogen Peroxide Spray is good and usually doesn’t fade anything), and then cover the area with a towel so people don’t track remaining any germs around.
- If the sick person wants to play with the ipad or tablet, cover it with plastic wrap.
- When the sick person is well, have them take a good shower and put on clean clothes before they join the rest of the family in the common areas of the house. Put clean sheets on their bed. Their poop will still contain viruses for another week or two. Keep them using their own bathroom for another week if possible. If they can’t keep using their own bathroom, make sure they have their own hand towel and wash their hands well after using the bathroom. Clean the toilet after they go number 2. If the sick person is a child under age 10, YOU should wipe them wearing gloves when they poop when they are sick and for a few days after.
- Wash soiled laundry TWICE. Use hot water and use chlorine bleach if possible. Wear gloves to handle the dirty laundry and wear gloves to transfer the laundry from the washer to the dryer because it will still have germs in it. My research has shown that even after washing on hot and 1.5 hours in a hot dryer, there are STILL live germs in the laundry. You can see my laundry experiments on this page. So, wash it at least twice if it had vomit or diarrhea on it. If you can’t use chlorine bleach, quarantine laundry that had vomit or diarrhea on it for 2 weeks after you wash it if possible. Also, run the washer by itself with bleach after you washed a vomit load to clean the washer.
- Don’t have company until everyone in your house has been well for at least 2 weeks and you have thoroughly cleaned. The stomach flu viruses can live for weeks on household surfaces. If you have company before that, make sure you warn them. Don’t send children back to school until they have been symptom free for at least 48 hours. Don’t go to work in food service until you have been well for at least 72 hours.
Don’t allow your sick child to handle any food or beverage items.