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  • Gretchen Seefried

Surviving the Stomach Bug with Kids

Updated: Mar 6, 2019

“Mommy, I just threw up”. The most dreaded words in the English language, especially at 3:15 in the morning. “It got on the bed”, are the next most dreaded. Until your child has had a bout of the stomach bug, you may not fully comprehend this panic attack mentality. But ask any mother who spent part of this winter in the trenches, and you’ll begin to understand.


As my kids got older, I got calmer. It used to be that within seconds of hearing someone in the family (or someone who had recently kissed someone in the family) had just vomited, I began projecting the course of the next 21 days: seven people times an average three-day incubation period… I would calculate the number of loads of laundry, lost hours of sleep, exponential number of people who we had slobbered, breathed, sneezed on or, God forbid, with who we had shared pacifiers, lollipops, or sippy cups! These were daunting word problems for someone with math anxiety.


But eventually all the kids matured enough to make it to the bathroom, at least after the initial wave, and my husband eventually witnessed enough rounds of stomach flu to know that chances for romance were lower than those for a home-cooked meal.


One of my friends had a debilitating phobia of vomit. I mean, none of us are really attracted to it, but for some it’s worse than a broken bone! We now laugh about the time she held her seven-year-old nearly out the window by his ankles while careening towards home as he hollered “I think I’m going to throw up!” Her hurry wasn’t to get him to the bathroom, but to get to the house where she could get some distance! Her husband always had clean-up duty, even when they all had food poisoning.


I always admired my sister-in-law’s approach. Raised in a military family, she was always matter-of-fact, even when her three kids were preschoolers. Everybody had a “burp bucket” by their bed along with a wet washcloth. If you had to throw up, you knew to use the bucket, wipe your mouth, and report in tomorrow morning! She also had an excellent theory about whining. Whiny kids are hungry, tired, or sick. Treat accordingly!


The worst age for a stomach bug is the toddler year. A toddler will have nothing to do with the towel you optimistically draped over your shoulder. He also quickly perfects the art of tossing while running, usually while crossing the needlepoint rug which came back from the cleaners the day before. He can also produce a variety of sounds that closely mimic the sounds of a toddler throwing up that he deviously transmits through the baby monitor once the bug has passed, having discovered that – just like magic – these noises will bring you running!


As March advances, and the February bugs slowly loosen their grip, take heart knowing that next year your child will be a year older and that much more self-sufficient when it comes to the stomach flu. In the meantime, if your child is exposed:

  • Try a few cups of undiluted grape juice the day after exposure.

  • Year-round probiotics and elderberry gummies (no honey-based for kids under one).

  • Break half a capsule of activated charcoal in the grape juice if exposed or ill.

And remember the words of mothers throughout time: “This too shall pass.”

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