Surviving a family stomach bug: A single mom's guide (based on true events)

August 17 | Guest post by Mary Coen
Cloud vomiting rainbow patch by Littlebraid

Let's face it, it doesn't matter how Pinterest-worthy your parenting skills or home life are, when the entire family is struck down by a vomiting bug, your house turns into the D-Day landing scene from Saving Private Ryan. But instead of detached limbs there's vomit, instead of weaponry there's towels, and instead of sea water there's diarrhea.

As if a family wide vomiting spree wasn't horrific enough, you're mummy, you're in charge of this literal shit show.

Dear. God.

So how does one nurse delicate constitutions when one is incredibly fragile one's fucking self? Particularly when you're all so contagious you can't summon help? (Many thanks for all the offer though.) Here's what I learned "in the field" with a family stomach bug (whilst begging for it all to end — "it" being either the bug or life, whichever ended first, really, I was flexible)…

Vomit is coming onsie by GodlenCherries

Domestic bliss:

Flexibility

And by flexibility I mean the art of letting go. Lord bless your little cotton socks if you and your loved ones are exploding out both ends like a stepped on ketchup packet, and you still find a molecule of energy to care about the state of your house.

Firstly the laundry…

Embrace it, be at one with it, it's not so much a household task as a lifestyle for the next two weeks. Don't sweat over it (sweating will only add to the laundry pile). Break it down into grades of how much of a biohazard it is and work from there. By the way, your concept of "biohazardous" will also deteriorate over the next week, going from "there's vomit on this" to "but it's only a little bit of vomit." Bite the bullet and just say goodbye immediately to items that have been contaminated that won't survive the hell fire level of hot wash (RIP pretty black jumper).

A painful sub point of the laundry topic is night-time laundry (of which there will be much. So much. SO. MUCH.). You have these survival skills already, you just haven't had to use them for a while, but you've got this. Reminisce to the newborn days of defeated nocturnal heartbreak, and throwing a towel over that 4am spit up tsunami (after wiping off most of it… probably) and just sleeping on it. It's totally fine. No one will know.

How to try to combat the smell

If like most of the human population the idea of coming face to face with someone else's puddle of vomit/other bodily fluid makes you want to produce your own puddle, here are some tips I've gathered courtesy of some weird tv:

  • Good old Vaporub swiped under the nose covers the smell of almost everything.
  • However, in an emergency (and with small children, who seem to possess absolutely no sense of when or where they're going to heave, it's always an emergency) smiling suppresses the gag reflex. You can't vomit while you're smiling, usually. That's not to say you won't really, really want to and that you won't traumatize your children with your Smiling Man impression, but it might spare you having to clean up double the mess after adding your own contribution.

Emetiphobes, you have nothing but my deepest sympathy.

Culinary delights:

If, like me, you face the horrific practicality of not all of your offspring being afflicted, and you have to prepare meals while your insides are attempting to escape your outsides, your oven is your best friend. As is food you can throw into the oven and have minimal contact with.

Consider your menu for the week tongue-in-cheek controversial

Rather than flirt with the harsh fact that you're giving up on life, embrace those scandalous fish fingers and a frozen pizza or two. Promise yourself next week it'll all be healthy and home-made from scratch.

Flat 7Up

If you're Irish I need say no more. However, if you're not, let me explain. We're not sure when or how, but did you know flat 7Up (not Sprite — What are you? Foreign?!) can cure everything? Stomach bugs, hangovers, the flu, leprosy, your failing marriage. Everything. The Irish obsession with flat 7Up is so ingrained in us that we would be far more willing to accept that St. Patrick's biggest contribution to the Emerald Isle was the introduction of flat 7Up (not that the "no snakes" thing isn't terribly convenient).

If you have small children, you'll know they dehydrate so quickly. Sometimes it's incredibly hard to tell whether dehydration is exacerbating an upset stomach, or has become the real health concern, until things get very dramatic. My kids don't get soft drinks (my one smug mother comment, I promise) but when they're sick sensible eating just isn't a concern. Whatever they want and can keep down — especially if it staves off dehydration — I'm all for. Flat carbonated drinks are a great way to coax them to stay hydrated. Flat sports drinks are also good, allegedly replenishing electrolytes, salts, and such.

The Exorcist Perler Bead Magnet Set by PerlerTricks

Your Sanity (HA!)

There is absolutely no way to feel good about yourself while you're sick. There just isn't. If you're looking after little ones who are also sick, you won't have the time or luxury to sit around and wallow and, y'know, get better. You will probably continue to feel sick long after everyone else is coming out of it.

Feel free to cry. Do it a lot, in fact. If you have the body fluid to spare between vomiting. But don't forget to adopt a good healthy black humour about it too… Think of all the comical horror stories you'll have to share in six months' time (approximately the amount of time it'll take to look back and laugh)!

And don't forget it's temporary. And you're a bad ass. You got this.

Join our community!

  1. "Lord bless your little cotton socks if you and your loved ones are exploding out both ends like a stepped on ketchup packet, and you still find a molecule of energy to care about the state of your house."

    This is the best sentence I've read in a long time.

    Thanks for posting this, I hope you and your laundry situation have fully recovered.

    7 agree
    • Thanks, Lala. The laundry is now part of the family. We've accepted it as a kind of weird smelling relative that won't leave.

      3 agree
  2. Ahhh OBH you do pick the days for your posts so well. I am a true emetophobe, and I had a therapy session scheduled two days ago. The same day my own offspring started vomiting all over the place. Nothing compares to that icy cold fear.

    Love your tips! I immediately wondered where all the containment/burn the house down/buy your ebola suits in advance advice was, but I guess once you're in it, you're in it!

    • The ebola suits merely ad to the laundry pile, unless you can spring for one that has a little windshield wiper across the visor. Even then you'll probably have to chuck it in a hot wash at some point and you're guaranteed that as soon as you have your spare biohazard gear on it'll immediately be vomited on.
      Hope your little one's puke fest didn't last too long.

  3. Not even kidding, my emetiphobia is one of the major reasons I don't want kids.

    Aaaand my anxious emetiphobic heart wants to point out here that if you're dealing with norovirus, a hot water wash will NOT kill it. You need bleach. Or to light those fabrics on fire. Otherwise they are still contaminated and can still infect other people. And the virus lasts for weeks even after you feel better- you'll still be shedding it everywhere you go, so wash your hands a lot. And as far as food prep goes, if your unaffected kids are old enough to get their own cereal, let them do that. But they're probably doomed anyway.

    And for people like me: there's a hand sanitizer called Germstar Noro, it is one of the only ones that actually kills Norovirus (regular Purell does not.) I order it special by the case on Amazon and it lasts me quite a while. I don't fuck with this pukin' shit.

    2 agree
    • Yeah…this was my worst nightmare about having kids, and I had to do a lot of work to get there.

      Also – I had no idea germstar noro existed, and now I'm looking at how to buy it (Australia). You are my favourite person on the net right now! +1 for burning everything.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.