February 6, 2006

The Family That Pukes Together

burns_kleenex.jpgIt was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Some stomach flu virus went through the whole family, one by one, the last few days, despite our efforts to avoid getting sick. [Big apologies in advance to the folks at the Baltimore Science Center; we honestly thought we'd isolated it.]

Seems like everyone talks about "keeping baby healthy," which is fine. I'm all for it. But if "baby's" the sick one, is there any way to actually diminish the likelihood that you'll catch whatever "baby's" got? We each have our techniques: at the earliest signs of sickness [i.e., the puking on the sheepskin rug], my wife went through the house with Clorox wipes, keeping every imaginable shared surface clean. I stared down our toothbrushes, all snuggled up against each other in the holder, and forced them apart. We even took turns sleeping apart, changing all the bedding and towels. The only thing we thought of and didn't do: wear Kleenex boxes on our feet.

So does anyone have any actual success stories about doing something and not getting sick when your kid's sick? Because I really want to know. Actually, I really wanted to know last week, but I'll take what I can get.

From the too-easily surprised editors of Parents magazine: Surprising Facts About Stomach Flu [parents.com]
"segregate the sick"? sure, and I'll just let the kid feed and clean herself. [multiples.about.com]
image: simpsonscentral.com, from episode 1f08, "$pringfield"

[update: Sorry, mom, the mob has spoken. The verdict so far is vigorous, repeated, and frequent, and tireless and consistent handwashing scrubbing. ]


I think once the kid pukes it is already too late for you. Nothing worse than everyone being sick at the same time. We had the stomach bug two years in a row around the holidays, and (knock wood) are trying to avoid making it three years in a row.

Cleaning the surfaces is important but the key is vigilant handwashing. Before and after picking up, feeding, changing, eating,wiping noses, toileting etc..

one way to do this is to leave easy to use products like the foamy soap and purell around the house. They even make kid friendly colored and sparkly no water hand disinfectant for kids along with tubes that you can fit in pocket or attach to a key chain.

Yes, I know that this sounds very Monk-ish but it works.

Sorry you guys were sick. Missed your blog for a few days and was starting to worry.

On a completely unrelated topic, I am suprised that you got no comments on the Park Slope shirts. For what its worth, if you've ever worn a pair of the Dansko clogs your feet would never let you wear anything else. The company does make some great looking actual shoes for both sexes. www.Dansko.com

[no problem, except that sitting around picking your nose all day is like 90% of what bloggers do. I might as well give up Diet Coke while I'm at it. -ed.]

I recommend the handwashing thing, too, as well as drinking lots of (as) hot (as you can handle) black or green tea... scald the virus out! :)

Actually, I believe there's some (inconclusive) evidence that the tannin in tea somehow helps suppress a cold virus, so it might not be a bad idea. The Japanese nurse who did our prenatal class suggested making a pot of boiling water and putting two black tea and two green tea bags in it, then using that to gargle, for pregnant women who were afraid of cold medicines...

I empathize -- our daughter got mildly sick right before Christmas, and then on Christmas Eve, in quick succession, me, my wife, my mother-in-law all started vomiting. My father-in-law was very smug in the morning (we were assuming it was food poisoning from a party he hadn't gone to) until he too started to get sick. We've been using Purell quite a bit since then, but who knows how well that's going to help.

Stomach virus went through our family twice last winter it was brutal. Heres what I learned:

It was likely a form of the highly virulent Norwalk virus. This virus is primarily transmitted via the fecal oral route (yuck), but I think it can also be expelled through vomit.

As Jay mentioned above, the only defense is proper hand washing. Heres whats recommended:

Scrub your hands for 15 to 30 seconds with regular soap and water (it doesnt have to be antibacterial soap to work) before rinsing. Studies show it is the length of time spent washing, not the type of soap, that makes the difference. Antibacterial waterless gels can be used if your skin is easily irritated or soap and water aren't readily available.

Its important to note that being a virus, anti-bacterial soaps and gels dont provide any additional effectiveness. Virus spores literally have to be scrubbed off and washed away.

Since we got hit so hard with this, I took this handwashing regimen one step further. At the first sign of intestinal distress in the kids, I make my wife and I wear disposable rubber gloves whenever were changing diapers or cleaning vomit. I put a box on each changing table. Hand-washing is still done, but I figure were one step ahead of the game if most of the virus spores never get on our hands in the first place and go right into the garbage after each potential contact.

The folks at the Baltimore Science Center hold no grudge. Hope you're all feeling better! I have no helpful thoughts on evading kid germs -- I get sick every single time, no doubt because I can never resist when the boy announces "kiss" and then proceeds to suck on my face.

Greg, try vigorous, repeated, frequent, tireless and consistent booger eating.

Mucophagists unite!

OK, just kidding.

[If you'll excuse me, I think I have to throw up... -ed]

Your kid is sick? Abandon all hope! In fact, give the child a big smooch -- might as well get it over with ASAP and get on with life.


I start taking vitamin C tablets three times a day, plus echinacia tablets as soon as i (or anyone around me) starts feeling sick. it dosen't kill it, but i reduces it (going on previous experience where i have turned into the walking dead, scaring the young and elderly alike).

My husband actually wrote that episode of "The Simpsons." Ironically, he has been barfed on several times by our 10 month old over the course of the past few days. I think it might be rotavirus, which doesn't appear to be spreading to the rest of us.

[see, the Kleenex boxes work! Oh why did I ever doubt you, Simpsons? -ed.]

Wow, the spouse of a Simpsons writer reads your blog! I knew this was a latter-day equivalent of the Algonquin Roundtable.

[nice quote, but that Style Section ship has already sailed, Buck. -ed.]

Ya know, I hear about viruses spreading like wildfire through homes and I look at my family and I can never, not even once remember my parents ever getting sick from one of us when we were little... nor can I remember a time at a young age, except for when we all had food poisoning at once, when my brothers and I caught stomach viruses from one another. The same goes with my cousins and aunts and uncles.

So I asked my parents their trick and they said, for one we weren't sick very often with stomach viruses as kids, I truly believe that some individuals (families) are just more susceptible. They also said that it was about handwashing as everyone else has said, changing bedding, and quarantining the sick child. I don't remember my parents laying in bed with us when we were sick, kissing on us, or lounging around with us... and I don't have any bad feelings about that. They sat by us and got us what we needed and whatnot, but we weren't getting hugs and kisses when we were barfy. When one child was sick the other two stayed away from him.

And the one big thing that I think really helped in our family that you've heard me talk about before... the one rule we had in our house was... NO SHARING FOODS AND DRINKS :O) Even when everyone was healthy my parents didn't eat or drink after us and we didn't eat or drink after one another.

So that was their advice... also, I've learned something very valuable in my child development experience and that is that a stomach virus is contagious from the moment symptoms (ie; vomiting and diareah) begin, until up to 7 days after they end. This is the downfall for many individuals... and this is why it is SO important for parents and children to wash their hands after diaper changes and going to the bathroom. Even after your child is well, the virus can still be transferred through their feces for a period of time.

And ditch the Purell as a means of handwashing... my dad sells the stuff for his company and he'll even tell you that while it will kill 99.9% of bacteria and some viruses, the best and only way to completely wash them away is with, like you said, tireless and consistent handscrubbing :O)

Actually, the first time I heard someone describe a blog as a "latter-day Algonquin roundtable," they were talking about National Review Online, and it made me shoot milk out of my nose.

That's okay, as long as you washed your hands afterward.

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