Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The stomach flu: A survivor's guide

Warning: this post is about puke, and how to best manage a puking three-year-old.

Today, I browsed through my archives and came to the conclusion that I have written a lot about fevers, puking, and diarrhea.

I shared some toddler-diarrhea-survival-techniques.

I waxed philosophic about fevers and parenting-in-crisis-mode.

The truth is, I was a pukey child (sorry, mom) and I am currently paying my karmic dues by raising a pukey son.

As we cleaned up from the puking-at-the-table disaster on Easter Sunday - we laughed and I regaled my in-laws with tales from my childhood. The time I puked in a fake potted  plant at the Walpole mall. Into my mother's wicker purse (it was the 80's). Into a snow boot. Into a business-sized envelope. The tales are many and varied.

You would think all that puking would have prepared me for life as a parent. Alas, no. But, the good news is, I have learned a few things by trial and error.

For the past four days my beloved three-year-old has kept nothing down except the occasional sip of water.

Unfortunately, he does not have the ability to identify the feeling "nauseaus" and so we've been in quite a messy situation.

Here are a few things I have learned:

If you're headed to Easter dinner, bring a change of clothes for yourself, as well as for your pukey child.

A large bucket is handy, but it usually only catches the second or third wave.

Having a towel within arms reach is a life-saving technique. Stash a few in every room you are allowing the puker to have access to.

Keep him off the carpets - by baby gate if necessary. Do not waver in your conviction - the moment you let your guard down - you'll be getting out the steam cleaner.

Yet again, my diaper sprayer (kitchen sink spray hose attached to the toilet) saves the day. Hose off soiled clothes and towels before putting them in the laundry.

How to best clean up a besmirched comforter: Don latex gloves. Take the comforter outside and hose it off with a garden hose. Squeeze out the excess water. Machine wash as directed. For a larger-than-a-twin-comforter, hose off and take it to the laundromat - they have those jumbo washers.

A bean bag chair (especially those ones that are sort of faux-leather) covered in towels, placed on a non-carpeted floor is a great resting spot for the pukey child.

Ginger syrup: Cut a 1 inch chunk of ginger into slices. Put it into a small pot with 2 cups cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for a few minutes (till desired gingery-ness). Remove the ginger and add a bit of sugar. Allow the mixture to reduce a bit (to desired consistency). I give a teaspoon of the syrup to the big boy for upset stomach. Keeps nicely in the fridge.

No dairy until you have achieved 24 hours puke-free. Unless you want to clean up curdled milk.

I highly recommend the drip-free popsicles which contain gelatin. These are a god-send. Even the baby can eat one without making a mess. They even come in wee-toddler size.

The carseat. Dear Lord, the carseat. Why do they always puke in the car? Cleaning a puke-laden carseat is, in my opinion, nearly impossible. I have no advice for cleaning it, except to bite the bullet: take it completely out of the car and dismantle it. Machine wash the cover. The key is to AVOID getting the seat dirty. When you have a potentially pukey child:
* Cut a hole in a plastic grocery store shopping bag. Place the bag on the "seat" of the car seat, pulling the between-the-legs-buckle through the hole. I cut a hole in a prefold cloth diaper and put it on top of the plastic bag, but a towel would work fine. Be sure to cover side-to-side and front-to-back with your bag/towel.
* Next, strap the kiddo into the seat and cover the buckles. This can be accomplished with an extra-long bib, or by wrapping a towel around the buckles.
* Yeah, yeah, I know - who has this kind of foresight? But if you save yourself the horror of the pukey carseat even ONCE isn't it worth it?

Having a pukey car-seat in my very recent memory, I'm going to pack a little bag with a few grocery store shopping bags, paper towels, baby wipes, a towel, and the car-seat-covering essentials listed above for permanent placement in my trunk.

Offer lots of different clear liquids, even if some of it gets puked up - keep offering. Ice cubes in the sippie cup of water adds interest. Or a fancy straw. Or a chance to utilize mama's fancy water bottle.

When the big boy is tolerating clear liquids I advance his diet using the BRAT diet.
Rice (or plain pasta)
Toast (or saltines)

Yeesh this turned into a long post.

Any other mama's out there with some pukey-advice?


  1. That's some good advice. I agree, the carseat is the worst...most likely to be puked on leaving the house than coming back home. :( i hope the little one feels better soon.

    Jessica, sacramento ca

  2. Wow, I love the idea about the car seat covering. You should patent it! :)

    I don't have any words of wisdom. LB has only puked once, and my littlest never has. But after reading this, I'll be prepared once they do!