The night before my daughter’s first birthday party she came down with a stomach virus. She was up all night getting sick. However, as stomach bugs go, she was totally fine and bouncing around at 9 AM. She was able to eat a regular breakfast and went about her day. We had planned a birthday party with a cousin, who was also turning one, for that evening. We were in a conundrum – should we cancel the party or should we go on as planned since she was symptom-free? After discussing with the other family we decided to go ahead as planned and have the party. What a mistake! Twenty-four hours later, several other families who attended the party came down with a stomach virus. I felt terrible; I had exposed everyone to our germs.
Since that time, my youngest daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder called MCAD (Medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency), a condition defined by the National Institute of Health as one that “prevents the body from converting certain fats to energy, particularly during periods without food (fasting).” Basically the stomach flu could be deadly to her if she is not treated with IV fluids in the hospital when she was ill. I began to research stomach viruses frantically and take precautions that most people thought were ridiculous. We managed to stay stomach-virus-free for three years.
Then of course the inevitable happened. At another family birthday we were all exposed and she got a stomach virus. Thankfully, I was successfully able to treat her at home with vigilant management, and I was eternally grateful for avoiding a trip to the hospital. However, it continued to spread through my house despite our best cleaning efforts and my five-year-old fell victim next. After another long night, she felt much better the next day. Based on my research and the first birthday episode, I kept her home and away from others for another 24 hours. I thought we were in the clear. No one else in the house had gotten sick yet and we had a First Communion Mass and party and we decided to attend.
Another epic mistake. Let’s just say a repeat of the first party occurred. Twenty-four hours later, all the kids she was playing with at the party were sick. Again, I felt awful seeing all of our friends and family getting so sick! What happened? I had followed what I thought was a safe time to allow her to be around others, more than 36 hours after the last time she had gotten sick!! I went back to research and discovered more great information from Dr. Annie Pryor, a Catholic mom of 3 and PhD of biochemistry. Dr. Annie is the founder of Stopthestomachflu.com. I would highly recommend reading all the information on her site, but I’ve put a few highlights here:
Tips for moms on helping stop a stomach virus:
- Not all episodes of vomiting and diarrhea are caused by a stomach virus (some other causes are food poisoning and food allergies) but you should always err on the side of caution.
- Children with a stomach virus are contagious for 3 days after they have had symptoms! I learned from my mistake(s)! Both parties were unnecessary for my daughter to attend. Lesson – Dr. Annie recommends keep your kids home if they have been sick for at least 48 hours, but longer if possible. As a school nurse I often hear students tell me, “I was throwing up last night, but now I feel fine so my mom said I could go to school.” PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS!!!
- As mom, if you have had a stomach virus, do not cook or prepare food for anyone. I recently called my mother, who told me she was violently ill with a stomach virus. She had attended a party at her parish and a woman who recently had a stomach bug provided the meal. Every single person who attended was as sick as a dog the next day. Please be kind and avoid cooking for 48 hours after you are symptom-free.
- Don’t host playdates or guests in your home for at least two weeks. I know, it sounds crazy, but viruses can live on surfaces for weeks! I’ve had it happen to me before too. Friends invited us over after having a stomach virus. Everyone had been symptom free for three days. We thought we were safe … until 24 hours later when we were all vomiting. Again, be nice to your friends and save them from sickness.
- Not all cleaning supplies kill the stomach virus. According to Dr. Annie, you should “clean with NEW chlorine bleach (a 5%-10% solution of household bleach in water is good as long as the bleach has been opened for less than 1 month or Clorox clean-up with bleach), Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Wipes or Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Spray (great for carpet). The Regular Clorox® wipes and Lysol® wipes from the grocery store, including Lysol Power and Free Hydrogen Peroxide Wipes, DO NOT claim to kill these viruses.”
As winter is rapidly approaching, I hope these tips help keep you healthy and stop the spread of stomach viruses!!! As Catholics, it’s cool to share, but important to remember to keep our germs to ourselves.
Copyright 2017 Michele Faehnle