I have mixed feelings about fall and winter. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite holidays, and I love hot drinks, soft snowfalls and getting cozy in front of our wood stove…..but I despise the sickness that comes and goes all throughout the season. It disrupts school, causes many sleepless nights and grouchy days and can get costly, too (Kleenex, medicine, extra laundry, doctor visits, etc.).
Stomach viruses are on my naughty list. But thankfully, they resolve pretty quickly. Here are some of the ways we get to feeling better quickly, and some tricks I’ve learned after dealing with this for many many years (and sleepless nights):
Food and Drink: If someone throws up in the daylight hours, I don’t give them anything to eat or drink for at least an hour, besides tiny sips of water. If they make it at least an hour or two without a repeat, we’ll try some Gatorade or flat soda. And then we “watch and wait” again. Quite often, there will be an acute period of the virus where they will throw up multiple times within a short time frame, and then after that it moves on to the rest and recovery phase. There’s no point in stressing a sore stomach with food and drinks that won’t stay down anyway. Dehydration is generally not a threat since most viruses resolve quickly, sometimes as little as 24 hours. When they can keep drinks down and it’s been many hours and they are asking for food, then I move on to some tummy-friendly offerings like Jello, soft drinks (cold but allowed to go flat – bubbles probably aren’t best), applesauce, peaches, crackers and rice.
Making it Easier on Mama: Usually, I’m the one who deals with a sick child. If they wake up at night, I’ve found it’s easiest to stay with them for the acute phase so I don’t have to get out of bed multiple times. I generally don’t put them back in their own bed, either (who wants to wash sheets TWICE?). Our children sleep upstairs so here’s what I do: clean up any mess and then make a bed on the couch for the sick child. I spread a plastic tablecloth or something else waterproof on the couch. On top I put an old sheet or towel. I also cover their pillow with an old towel. I set a bucket near the couch. I get them settled and then make myself a pallet on the floor nearby and get ready to wake often, if needed.
Good Medicines: If you want to try medicine, it’s best to way until stuff is staying down. For infants and young children, you might try Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water. It’s completely safe and natural and made with ginger and fennel, traditional tummy soothers. OTC offerings include Emetrol syrup and dramamine. When they are back to eating, probiotics in chewable or powder form help to restore balance in the stomach and intestines. Things I’ve found that do NOT work when my children have a stomach virus: Tums (for obvious reasons – it’s indicated for heartburn), Pepto-Bismol (they hate the taste and it can actually prolong an illness because it slows down the natural process of the body ridding itself quickly of a virus) and “immune boosters” like Airborne, Vitamin C, echinacea, etc. (again, a virus runs it’s course so quickly that an immune booster will be pretty much pointless).
When It’s Just the Runs: Sometimes they don’t throw up at all. Instead, it all comes out the other end. And for some reason, I have found that this type of virus lasts much longer than the other kind, especially the younger your child is. Here’s our typical scenario: our 5 year old throws up once or twice and is all better the next day. Our baby gets diarrhea and we fight it for 2 weeks. That’s when you have to be more vigilant about dehydration. And I know certain foods are recommended and others are discouraged, but I’ve learned it doesn’t seem to make a big difference. Of course, I don’t serve up chili and hot dogs during a bout of diarrhea, but I don’t restrict them to the “Brat diet,” either. Nor do I eliminate dairy, although we do cut back. When you’re talking a week or longer of fighting an illness, too many restrictions can rob them of needed nutrients, calories and vitamins. Some good things to use when dealing with diarrhea – probiotics, a powerful diaper rash cream that stays put like Calmoseptine or Boudreaux’s, extra laundry detergent and extra layers of clothing (to protect chairs, sheets, etc. in case of leaks). And you all know I love cloth diapers, but we usually switch to disposables during the worst of it because of having to use so much “non cloth-safe” creams and because cleaning those messes multiple times a day without a sprayer is pretty darn yukky.
Is There Any Way to Prevent It? Wouldn’t you love it if stomach bugs could be prevented? Although there is a vaccine for Rotavirus, that’s only one of thousands of strains. Your best bet is to be vigilant about fighting germs when you know something is in the neighborhood. Keep their nails short and clean. Sanitize often-touched surfaces like doorknobs, remotes, phones and the spigot on the water cooler in your kitchen. I know it’s hard and sometimes they are sneaky, but try to nip food and drink-sharing in the bud, at least during cold/flu season. When one of your children is sick, keep him home. In fact, keep everyone home for a few days, if possible, because you can be contagious without actually displaying symptoms yet! If your children are sick, it’s probably not the best time to be cooking a meal for another family or baking sweets and giving as gifts. Again, you could be unknowingly spreading germs to another house even if you yourself are not sick.
I know this isn’t the most pleasant topic of conversation, but since it’s “that time of year,” I thought some of you might find this post helpful. Feel free to add your remedies and tips for dealing with stomach troubles in a comment below!