It’s January which means cold and flu season is well underway. For those of us with kids in public school, we are now professionals when it comes to coping with the common cold. We are well stocked with a Costco amount of tissues and Tylenol. Being sick is never fun but we know it is inevitable, so we prepare. Yet even the most seasoned parent is terrified of one sickness no matter how many times it happens: The Stomach Bug.
We can all recall the first time the stomach bug attacked our house. I’ll spare you the details, but let me set the stage. My husband was TDY for the week. Two days in, my two year old fell. Twenty-four hours later, my five year old was hit. After 48 hours of no sleep, I was vastly unprepared for the violent onslaught of cleaning and laundry that was required of me. Little kids are generally messy people, but when they are sick and still figuring out how to appropriately respond to their bodily signals…it’s a recipe for disaster. While that week is unfortunately forever seared in my memory, it did teach me some valuable lessons on how to stay prepared for battling the dreaded stomach bug.
Make an “Oh Crap” Box
As military spouses, we know that we need to be prepared to handle the unexpected, and that we will often need to handle it alone. An “Oh Crap” Box will save your sanity when you or your kid wakes up sick at 2 A.M. and you’re on your own. Grab a plastic tub and your go-to medicines, emesis bags, hand sanitizer, electrolyte drinks, and anything else you regularly use when illness strikes. This is your emergency stash, not to be used daily. When (not if) you need to use something from this box, make sure you replace the contents so it is ready for the next time. Because there will be a next time.
Save Plastic Grocery Bags
I am the lady that has bags of bags stored in her closets, and grocery bags are no exception. Though you can buy emesis bags online or from the store, it’s not something I think to grab until it’s too late. So instead I check all my plastic bags for holes and store them under my sink. Layer multiple bags in a trash can or bowl to minimize clean up and contact. When the inevitable happens, toss the bag and it’s ready to go for the next round.
Protect Your Furniture
I sincerely hope that you never have to deal with the stomach bug when your kids are little. But if you do, leave no surface uncovered. From my experience, small children will erupt without warning and are unwilling or unable to use a trash can. Waterproof sheets or picnic blankets work great for this and are still relatively comfortable. You can also spread out trash bags and cover them with towels. You will inevitably have extra laundry to wash, but hopefully it won’t be your entire couch.
The worst thing about the stomach bug is that when it takes down one, it usually takes down all. Most regular cleaning products do not work on norovirus. You need bleach. Follow the directions to properly dilute the solution and wipe down every surface you can. Light switches, door knobs, fridge handles, and toys. Clean anything that is commonly touched. Don’t forget electronics like remotes, cell phones, and tablets but make sure to clean them according to their guidelines. Try to do this as soon as you can and often throughout the illness to hopefully prevent the spread to the rest of your family.
Whatever you do, do not try to drive anywhere unless it is to the doctor. This isn’t just to avoid the spread of illness. Car seats and vehicles have many crevices. Avoid at all costs. If you need something from the store, order a grocery delivery or ask a friend to drop it off. Save yourself the stress and extra clean up and ask for help. Even if you avoid the effects of the sickness, your job as caregiver takes its toll. Drop any expectations you have of the next few days and take the time to recover.
As kids return to school after the break, let’s keep our guard up against the dreaded stomach bug. If it does attack, we can take a breath and know that we are prepared and that this too shall pass.