Boy oh boy do I have some tips to share with you today on how to stop a stomach bug from spreading in a large family! We have been through the ringer for the last month!
If you read my last post, about surviving times of illness in a large family, then you already know that we have been battling the stomach bug. What you may not know is that we went through this stomach bug for four whole weeks! Eek!!!
Everyone in the family (11 of us total) got it, except for my oldest son, and four of us got it twice! Twice!!!
I always thought that once you caught it, you were good and wouldn’t get it again that same year. Let me tell you, folks. You CAN get it again!
I’m going to share with you today what we did wrong, and then what we finally started doing that ended up containing the virus and getting it out of the house. It was NOT easy. We basically adopted hospital grade sanitation procedures. But it was necessary. And now that I have these procedures, I have some hope that in the future, when we get the stomach bug again, we won’t have it for nearly as long, and we might be able to contain it to just a few people coming down with it. We’ll see.
But hopefully not anytime soon!
What We Did Wrong
I have identified several areas where we were doing “it” all wrong. As soon as the first child started throwing up, I gave the children one of my Hygiene Moments With Mommy talks. (they love these! ;))
I went over the normal stuff. Wash your hands a lot, don’t eat or drink after anyone, etc. etc.
We *tried* to quarantine. But this all started with our youngest children (2, 3, and 4 year olds). Has anyone really figured out how to quarantine a 2 and 3 year old yet? I know I haven’t. So we did the best we could here with the younger children.
Because we were all washing our hands a little more than normal, I think we actually did ourselves a disservice. And I know that statement sounds totally bizarre!
Hand washing needs to be all or nothing.
I think if we had just washed out hands like we normally do, this would have spread a lot faster and we could have gotten over it very quickly. But because everyone was washing their hands a few more times per day, it sloooooooowed it down, but didn’t stop it. We were going 3-5 days in between each and every occurance. When you have 11 people in the family…well…it takes forever!!!
So, I should have gotten really militant about handwashing from the very beginning, or we should have just stopped all together. And of course I am not actually advocating that your family stop washing their hands. I am advocating for militant handwashing during times of illness. Slacker handwashing is just going to slow everything down.
Stop A Stomach Bug From Spreading Step #1- One bathroom for sick people
I just want to give credit to my amazing neighbor. She took pity on me when I texted her and asked her to keep praying for us because we were still sick. She told me that one of her kids got rotavirus over the summer and she did a TON of research and was able to completely contain it. So she passed everything she knew along to me.
The first thing you will need to do is to designate one bathroom for the sick people. Ideally, this is where they will throw up (this is tough with the little people, just do the best you can during the active throwing up period). But all other bathroom stuff needs to happen in this one bathroom.
The virus is transmitted via feces and vomit. So the goal here is to completely contain all feces and vomit in this one small room. Your child needs to let you know each time they are going to the bathroom. They need to touch as little as possible while in there. As soon as they are done, they need to wash their hands very thoroughly. Have them sing happy birthday twice through, use warm water, and get all surfaces of their hands vigorously.
Before they leave the bathroom, they need to call you in and then they will tell you each surface they touched. You will have a spray can of Lysol and spray down each and every place they touched.
So this will most likely mean:
- toilet handle
- toilet paper holder
- sink faucet
- soap dispenser
- door knobs
- counter top
You will want to spray until it is wet, and then let the surface air dry (don’t wipe it off).
I went the extra mile and washed my hands too, just in case.
The only people allowed in this bathroom are people who have been sick in the last 7 days, and the disinfector!
Now, here’s the kicker. Any person who has been sick, still carries the virus in their body for 7 days!!! That means they have the potential to spread the virus for 7 days. You see where I’m going here?
Each sick person has to only use that bathroom and follow all of the above steps for 7 whole days.
The goal here is to make sure that no sick germs make their way out of the bathroom and that those germs in the bathroom are killed as quickly as possible.
It’s a LOT of work. But taking care of barfing kids for 4 weeks is even more work.
Stop A Stomach Bug From Spreading Tip #2–Disinfect every time and close the toilet lid!
This ties into tip #1. You must disinfect the sick person bathroom every single time someone uses it. By the time I started following these protocols, I was actually going in there a few extra times a day and spraying everything down extra times. If you start these protocols as soon as the first person gets sick you probably won’t hit those levels of paranoia. Just spraying the bathroom down after each use will be enough.
One thing that is really important to remember though is to close the seat lid before flushing. If you flush with the lid open, this will result in toilet plume. This is pretty much your worst nightmare if you are trying to contain the stomach bug.
Make sure every single person in the house is closing the lid after using the restroom (this includes after barfing!).
Stop A Stomach Bug From Spreading Tip #3– Disinfecting main rooms
Goodness, this is getting long! I thought this was going to be a quick blog post! This tip is short though…
At the end of the day, take a Chlorox wipe and wipe down all doorknobs and lightswitches. I also take this opportunity to spray down the other bathroom hotspots with Lysol (toilet, toilet handle, lightswitches, faucets, and the bathroom counters).
Before any food prep, spray down your kitchen counters, and before eating each meal, spray the table off. Let it air dry.
Stop A Stomach Bug From Spreading Tip #4–Laundry
There are a few different ways to disinfect your laundry. If you are just doing whites, bleach is the obvious choice, I don’t have a whole lot of whites though, so…
Pouring between 1/4 and 1/3 of a cup of straight up, old fashioned Pine-Sol into the the fabric softener receptacle will do the trick. This must be in warm or hot water. When I am doing this, I program my washer to do an extra rinse, just so that the smell isn’t too strong. (It will seem like the smell is going to be strong, but by the time the clothes run through the dryer, the smell has dissipated.
It’s important that you get this specific type of Pine-Sol, it’s the only one that is laundry-friendly.
There is also this product by Lysol. I wasn’t able to find this product at my local Wal-mart, but the price is good on Amazon. I’m going to order some to keep in the laundry room. Both of these products are great to have on hand for colds and flu as well.
According to the doctor I spoke to, just regular detergent and warm water are not enough to kill germs in the laundry.
Stop a Stomach Bug From Spreading Tip #5–General handwashing
This is something that everyone in the family is going to have to actively participate in, and it’s going to require a LOT of reminders from you, Mom. You are going to have to constantly re-emphasize handwashing. Before every meal, after you see anyone leave the bathroom, if you see someone walking inside, or just walking around…tell them to go wash their hands.
After every diaper change, before you prepare any food, before you grab a drink of water, wash your hands!
Take hand sanitizer with you. I’m not usually a hand-sanitizer junkie, but if we’re trying to avoid an illness, I keep it with me and use it often when I’m in public.
I think the most important part here is to keep the children washing often and properly. Have them sing Happy Birthday two times through and show them how to scrub every surface of their hands.
Stop a Stomach Bug From Spreading Tip #6– Timeframes
Remember, the rotavirus lives in the body for 7 full days after first symptoms. So this means that you must be vigilant with the infected people for that long. I had my children rejoin the family after 24 hours, but they had to use the one designated sick bathroom for a full seven days.
Use this information too if you are around anyone who has recently had a stomach bug. If it’s been less than 7 days, use extreme care around them (I’d be using the hand sanitizer constantly and be very careful with hand washing and hand sanitizing in the same bathroom, or just stay away.
This all seems like so much, and it is. It really is. But if you don’t want to have to deal with the bug for weeks on end, or you don’t want it going through every last person in your home, it may be worth it to you to just go a little bit crazy for a week.
I really wish that I had had this information when the first child in our family got sick, because honestly, it feels like we lost a whole month of life that we can’t get back. I know this isn’t going to be for everybody. It’s extreme! But if you find your family in a cycle of illness that you just can’t break, it may be worth a shot!
Let me know if you have any more tips for containing contagion!
Erin Hill says
Good tips. I’ve had some luck with grape juice, acv, and grape juice. As soon as the first person gets sick, everybody not sick starts pounding back acv laced juice and charcoal. It’s worked for me once so far, at preventing more people from getting it. I have no scientific explanation other than activated charcoal supposedly binds up the yuck. But I figure it can’t hurt.
Erin Hill says
I meant activated charcoal not grape juice twice. Lol.
You can also make gummies using the grape juice and AC for little kids.
Ashley Buffa says
Yes, activated charcoal, ACV and grape juice were my go-to’s for years, but honestly, it never really worked for us. Everyone would still get sick and the activated charcoal makes such a mess! I did buy grape juice this go-round, but it was more for a treat than anything 😉
The AC seemed to work out more for me than the kids, but it was the first time I ever stayed healthy, which made handling the sick little people easier. I just take the capsules for myself, so it’s cheap and easy enough to have on hand. Could have definitely been a fluke, though. lol.
Family of 6 here. Just had the stomach bug two weeks ago me mom had it we have one bathroom!! I had bathroom trips when everyone was in bed and cleaned up after each use. Then I was weak the entire next day I was prepared for the next person to get it and go down the line I was drinking grape juice and a little acv and lemon juice and keeping kids diet light just so when everything hit it wouldn’t be so much coming back up. And I also rubbed Theives oil on myself and everyone and put it into our soap dispenser and diffuser. Well, I’m glad to say not one other family member got it!! This never has happened before so maybe they had stronger immunity or I did some different things….I was doing the happy dance
Just thought I’d make a comment about you saying that gastro /rotavirus/norovitus lasts for 7 days, it is actually up to 10 days after symptoms show.
Hydrogen peroxide is a good alternative to bleach for disinfecting areas as it kills the bug. There are sterilization tablets that you can get from the UK that you mix with water a day it will kill basically every germ within 15 minutes.
I do like the tip on using one bathroom and militant hand washing, I am a stickler for hand washing and disinfecting surfaces when I hear that it’s going around, so I do what I can to stop it from even coming into the house.
Ashley Buffa says
Oh HELP! Thank you for letting me know it’s 10 days, I will update the post with that info! Thankfully, we haven’t had any new outbreaks, and it’s been over 10 days, so I think we’re in the clear!!!
I will have to search for those sterilization tablets! Thank you!!!
Help me please. My kids have been sick for four weeks, off and on, taking turns, and two of them have had it twice. I’m following all the tips above and even more extreme honestly. Please tell me this will end.
Ashley Buffa says
I am SO sorry that you are going through this too! Following all of the steps in the post helped us to finally stop spreading it around, and we haven’t had any recurrence! Let me know how it goes.
What does your family do when you have the flu? The flu invaded our home a couple of years ago when we only had 3 children and all of them caught it as well as my husband. By the grace of God, I managed to survive without catching it. That being said it lasted almost 4 weeks.. I literally thought I would lose my mind. I remember standing at the sink bleaching the dishes (yes.. I did this.. I was so tired of them being sick) just crying and praying that it would end soon. It did.. it passed but it was rough and honestly with the flu this winter being so bad we have only took our children in public about 4 or 5 times because we have two more children now than we did then.. do you all try to avoid the flu or just face it when it comes? how do you manage such a large family when everyone is running high fevers and up most of the night for weeks? We all had RSV at the beginning of this year and although it made for a rough week it didn’t seem to drag on like the flu did..any advice would be much appreciated. We have became hermits this winter.
Ashley Buffa says
Marsha, we have had the flu as a family twice, and it was miserable both times. This year, with the flu so bad, we kept the babies home from church and my husband and I alternated taking the other children to church each week. We worked on proper hand-washing habits a LOT this year, as well as proper sneezing/coughing techniques. We were vigilant about handwashing/hand sanitizer every time we were in public. There’s only so much that you can do with the flu though, unfortunately, it is so easily spread and caught.
We have to rely fully on the grace of God to get through those long feverish nights. Its rough! I remember illness being one of my biggest fears as a younger mother when I had four or five because I knew how much work it took to get through it.
Clorox wipes and (possibly) Lysol DO NOT kill norovirus. It says it kills the Flu virus which is not the stomach flu bugs. Only bleach and hydrogen peroxide kill norovirus. I also learned that regular hand sanitizers also DON’T work. There’s a great website written by a microbiologist mom called stopthestomachflu.com that details how to contain and destroy this nasty bug.
Katrina Coffman says
I hate to be the downer here, but Lysol won’t kill tummy bug. We learned that the hard way. Bleach water spray and wiped with a paper towel. Everyone using paper dishes. Oh how I loathe the tummy bug. Here’s a link for some extra help.
Hmmm…does anyone take a daily multivitamin and/or use all natural cleaning products? We use Shaklee for both and are rarely sick. When we are, it is typically short-lived . Not trying to sell anything as I literally stumbled upon Shaklee because of who I married. But it works, like seriously, amazingly better than anything we ever used growing up.