We rang in the new year with the stomach flu. Not the way I planned to start 2018, but I did notice something about myself as I was dealing with the aftermath – I have a distinct method of handling the stomach flu with this many people in the house.
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First of all, I have a sixth sense about this whole vomiting thing. I can hear a child getting ready to vomit from several doors down while I am fast asleep. Rarely do I catch them in time, but occasionally I can. And I just know when it’s the flu and when it is something else. So, I could tell when my little 3 year old started to crater the Saturday after Christmas. She was laying around and not doing her usual grazing through the kitchen. That night, she started in throwing up, and I prayed the baby wouldn’t get it while I was done dealing with the 3 year old. It is so much easier to only need to help one really little sick person at a time. 2 days later, the rest of the kids started dropping like flies. First the 7 year old, then the 4 year old, then the baby, then the 11 year old – all in one night. And that’s when I kicked into Mommy Overdrive.
Here’s how I handled the stomach flu with my large family…
Gather the junk towels and trash cans
We keep a basket of junk towels for cleaning day and snow days and wiping down the dog after his bath, etc. When it’s sick day, they get used en masse! I do not use my regular bath towels for this sort of clean up, but you do need towels. I also pull trash cans from wherever I can, throw in a few paper towels at the bottom, and keep them near the sickies. I also try to give them blankets that aren’t too difficult to wash. The fuzzy blanket that sheds onto everything in the washer is OFF LIMITS. Small fleece throw blankets work really well.
Put everyone who can kind-of fend for themselves in one area
We have a large couch in the living room, and that’s where I gather the sickies who can mostly fend for themselves. If I only have a couple, I’ll often spend the night on the couch with them. This last time I had so many my 13 year old daughter stayed out with a couple of the older ones, while I was dealing with the smaller ones in my room.
Put those who cannot fend for themselves in your bedroom
We currently have a toddler bed in our room, but before that, I just put kids on pallets on the floor with a trash can nearby. I keep the younger ones in with me so that I can help them make it to the trash can. I don’t always succeed, but I have better luck when they are right there next to me.
Hold the baby
When I have a sick baby, there’s no point to trying to keep them in the crib. Babies and toddlers tend to throw up more often than older kids, so you end up changing sheets and blankets and jammies multiple times if you try to keep them in their own beds. So, I just hold them.
I have a recliner and end table in my room, so that becomes my home until the worst of it is over. I keep 1-2 wet washcloths on the end table along with 1-2 large junk bath towels. I also have a pile of junk towels and small blankets on the floor nearby. I usually have a water for myself, but only if I have someone who can take the baby for me so I can go to the bathroom periodically! (just telling it like it is!) I also keep my cell phone close for something to do. I have this little owl cell phone holder that I purchased when we were in the hospital with Mercy.
When the baby starts to throw up, I sit her up, put my hand underneath the outstretched towel and put it underneath her chin, and do my best to keep it contained and off of her and me. This makes it where I don’t have to change baby all the time, and I can just toss the towel over the side of the chair when it’s too soiled to be of anymore use. (Gross, but helpful information.)
While Mercy was sick, Creed (age 4) was also sick in the toddler bed. At one point, he did not make it to the trash can and I had to call in one of my older kids to hold baby while I quickly cleaned up and got him settled again. If you don’t have a secondary baby holder, lay the baby down and pray she doesn’t throw up while you clean as fast as you can!
Don’t worry (too much) about containment
Here’s my theory – you can’t truly contain sickness in a large family household (or any household, for that matter). By the time you realize there is sickness in the house, everyone has already been exposed. In our home, you help out until you get sick. Keep your hands washed and things cleaned up as quickly as possible, but don’t think for one moment you are going to escape it – unless you happen to have immunity to that particular strain and then yay for you!
However, we learned the hard way that no one should step foot in your house until the sickness has been gone 10-14 days. It lives there – especially in the winter months when you can’t air out the house. Sadly, a couple of years ago, we invited friends over too soon, and they all came down with the stomach virus. As much as I’d like to think we had nothing to do with it, I’m pretty sure we did.
Keep up on the laundry
Whatever you do, DO NOT let this one slip. I did laundry round the clock (and killed my already-ailing dryer in the process…but that’s another story). If you have an allergy setting on your washer, use it. Otherwise, wash in hot and add a bit of tea tree oil to the wash if you like. What kept me going was the understanding that if I went down and the laundry wasn’t caught up, we would be in a world of hurt. Often, I would keep the laundry going and then call in one of the older children to fold and put away.
Find a way to get aftercare supplies
If you can remember to keep certain things on hand all the time, that’s great, but this time I got caught off guard. I texted a neighbor and begged her to grab me easy-on-the-tummy foods (bananas, applesauce, crackers) and post-flu drinks (G2 and pedialyte) and leave them on my porch. I’d settle up with her later. If you or your husband head out the grab things just make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and try not to breathe on anyone. But, it really is advisable to just keep things on hand (note to self).
Don’t move too quickly into the recovery phase
I used to not give any water until a child hadn’t thrown up for over an hour. However, I now give sips of water if the vomiting is relentless and I think the child is getting dehydrated. Dehydration becomes a vicious cycle if you aren’t careful. But you will have to police the water intake – especially with those wily toddlers.
I only let them drink the first 3-5 hours. Then they get a cracker. If that stays down for 30 minutes, I let them have another. We do that for a couple of hours, and then I move to applesauce or a bit of banana or broth, but always pushing liquids first. I’d much rather they drink than eat.
If they have done well for a full 24 hours, then I add in toast with a tiny bit of butter or chicken noodle soup. After 48 hours, the older kids are usually fine to eat just about anything, but the younger ones almost always relapse if I try any dairy or fatty foods. Case in point, 3 year old Aspen had a small amount of bacon 48 hours after she stopped throwing up and threw up again. And I gave baby Mercy a bottle of formula 48 hours after she stopped throwing up and she started in again as well. I should have just kept pushing the clear fluids and bland foods at least another 24-48 hours with both of them. (note to self…again.)
So, there you have it – my method for dealing with the stomach flu. Not a pretty subject, but one that moms everywhere know all too well! What are your tried and true stomach flu tips? Be sure to leave them in the comments section!