Friday, January 27, 2012

Practical tips: Kids and stomach bugs

There was a time, a decade or so ago, when I idly debated which was worse: having the kids get a stomach bug first (which left Mom exhausted by the time it was her turn) or getting it first (and nursing little ones throughwhile I was staggering toward recovery). Then came the day that six of us had the pukies at the same time. 'Nuff said.

Herewith, at the start of the germ season, and in the midst of our first family tummy bug, I offer my hard-won tips on minimizing the awfulness:

1. Send spouse out for supplies as soon as child #1 blows. If you have more than one child, get twice as much ginger ale or juice or Pedialyte or Gatorade as you think you'll need. Popsicles work to get fluid in, too. Buy pretzels or whatever for afterwards. If no spouse is available, call someone (anyone!) or order delivery. Be obsessive about hydration. Aim for little sips, not gulps, after every urp. Room temp fluids tend to stay down longer than cold.

2. If you have a little one and don't have Tylenol suppositories in the house, get some. They may sit in the cabinet until the expiration date passes, unused, but if you have a child with a fever of 104 who can't keep anything down, you'll be glad to have them.

3. For kids too young to aim for a bowl, retrieve all the receiving blankets and baby towels stashed in the corner of your linen closet and stack them up on the pillow or mattress. Wad up the top blanket/towel when it's soiled, and toss it in a plastic bag (or a bucket with Borax) for the next morning. Voila -- no need to change sheets!

4. Avoid over-the-head jammies. Seriously bad news to get off. Avoid jammies completely if possible; less laundry is better.

5. Braid all long hair, including that of siblings who haven't (yet) gotten sick.

6. Do not let anyone sleep in a top bunk, even if they claim to feel fine. The 2am down-the-wall-on-your-sister experience is to be avoided at all costs. Let sick kids sleep near you so you don't have to dash out of bed at night. We used to keep an old crib mattress under our bed, which we slid out for sick-child use.

7. For kids who are old enough to attempt to reach a bowl, find a really large one. Make sure it has a flat bottom, so it doesn't tip easily. A bucket or anything else an entire head can fit into is great. Keep a box of tissues nearby for wiping yucky mouths.

8. Leave the bathroom light on all night. You don't want to trip while carrying a full bowl. Put dishwashing liquid in the bathroom so you can easily clean the bowl/bucket.

9. Move a giant bottle of Purell next to your sick child so you remember to clean your hands every time you touch him or her. Sometimes disinfecting really does stop the contagion. (Yes, soap is better, but not at 4am on round #13.)

10. Don't look at the clock. And don't count how many times you've gotten up. You don't want to know.


  1. ... and a couple more thoughts...

    1. I've always found getting the kid to sip ice water works best. YMMV.
    3. Throwing a towel down over the damage is another way to get through the night.
    7. If your wastebaskets are plastic anyway, keep them empty and right by the beds.

  2. That's the Julia I know--always practical and dryly humorous! I agree with number one, especially. There's a kind of squirrelly, calm-before-the-storm feeling about it.

    Hope this one passes you by quickly!

    Laura, posting anonymously because something strange is going on with OpenID

  3. Well done! Hope it passes quickly. Whenever I get wistful about the days with young children (who are now enjoying these delights with their own children), I count my blessings. Some things about aging aren't bad!

  4. Putting a plastic shopper bag in a bowl or trash can and folding the top down over the edges makes clean up lots easier. By pulling the top up and tying it off, you may be able to avoid touching the "stuff" altogether!

  5. Don't forget probiotics!!! Give them prophylactically and during the illness!

  6. This is amazingly funny and practical. I just found out a stomach bug is going around at daycare, so we could be in for a "fun" weekend. I'm definitely using your tips, and instead of avoiding it, I'll just expect it!