Mother comforting sick daughter.

Family Health

Survive Full-Family Gastro Bugs With These 11 Tips

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.

1. Sleep

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.

Article Author Terra Atrill
Terra Atrill

Read more from Terra here.

Terra has been writing online from her Vancouver living room since 2004, publishing an embarrassing number of vanquished personal blogs, and contributing to popular parenting and pop culture sites. She also runs a company, but that’s fodder for an entirely different bio. Facetious, dynamic and incredibly humble, this INTJ loves gluten, medium double-doubles, Ryan Reynolds, ugly-cry worthy family dramas, and minimalism. Ironically, she’s a wheat-sensitive, coffee-forgetting, easily-distracted, dehydrated single parent, literally surrounded by piles of clothes her twin preschoolers and tween keep growing out of. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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