Survive Full-Family Gastro Bugs With These 11 Tips
BY TERRA ATRILL
Photo © Kryzhov/123RF
Oct 9, 2017
It happened a month ago. I was perusing Facebook and reading about a friend's rough night. She didn’t give many details, but it sounded, shall we say, digestively challenging. I did as any good friend would and reacted with a crying emoji. Let’s call her Patient Zero. To my horror, other neighbourhood friends began to fall faster than Trump’s approval rating.
That's right, it was the "stomach flu", a.k.a. enterovirus, norovirus, or your friendly neighbourhood gastro bug.
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It’s sometimes called the flu, but it's not a flu. It can’t be prevented by a flu shot. You will suddenly feel like barfing, get stomach cramps, and will probably see a lot of bodily fluids (newborn-level fluid expulsion). Slower to appear, but still awesome, are low-grade fevers (less than 37.8° C), chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. It will kill your spirit and you’ll miss the days when you could safely leave the vicinity of a bathroom for more than 10 minutes. You really took that for granted, you know.
The attack of the norovirus hit me hard. I had to immediately abandon all parenting duties to my 10-year old. It was a gong show. Everyone was belligerent, bossy and loud. Without a bunker full of snacks and microwaveable food, they subsisted on fruit and PB&Js. Yet they somehow used every single dish I own within 30 minutes. Within four days, I could sit upright but then my three children were down.
I learned lessons during those nine(!) days of battling the whole-family stomach flu. Read on, so that when (not if) this heinous sickness invades your home, you’re prepared.
It’s a cosmic joke for parents, but you need to repeat the mantra: if you don’t rest, you can't care for anyone else. Pro-tip: If you need to sleep on the bathroom floor, do it. It may be safer that way.
2. Tag team
Swap jobs and schedules with a partner, friends and family.
3. Stock up like the Big One is coming
You need pain relievers, cleaning supplies, masks, a dry erase marker (more on that, later), shelf-stable and frozen foods, clean linens, hand soap, a scented candle for each bathroom, a detachable shower head (trust me, if you have toddlers), ginger ale and buckets and mixing bowls. Oh, the buckets and mixing bowls you’ll use.
4. Forget about green living
Your best friend is a toddler-sized pack of paper towels. Reusing cloth to deal with the deluge of grossness you’re privy to during this gastro-event is like inviting it to go on a bender.
5. Be militant
Clean like your mother-in-law is coming over. Write a cleaning checklist on the bathroom mirrors with dry-erase marker. Every time someone visits the bathroom, they should wash their hands vigorously with the hottest water possible, dry them with paper towel, and then use more paper towels to wipe up what we’ll call missed opportunities, and to wipe down surfaces after spraying an all-purpose cleaner.
6. Forget private bathroom time
Unless there are separate washrooms for each person, it’s realistic to assume someone may be waiting for their turn. Right beside you.
7. Medicate your symptoms, not the virus
Antibiotics will only help viruses train for the superbug Olympics. Stick to the stuff that will relieve things like pain or fever.
8. Keep track of what’s going down (and coming up)
Track fevers, hydration and lost body fluids for each family member, as well as medications. You need to make sure you’re not giving too much, too often, and that no one’s getting dehydrated.
9. Go BRAT
Feed your family a delectable diet of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, and make sure everyone gets fluids. Avoid juice, though. You don’t want to know what juice can do. Skip your coffee, too.
10. Order out
Pizza and sushi every day for a week? At least someone is eating. You can order groceries, too.
11. Set up Netflix
Prepare for a marathon like it’s never seen before. Most kids can navigate to Paw Patrol instinctively from birth, but still, keep your watch list full of family-friendly flicks.
This is how I survived the attack of the norovirus, housebound with three kids. I hope your experience is better, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Actually, I would; you never know when those germs will infiltrate.
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