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The Stomach Bug Protocol

A late-night text reminded me that we have a family system about stomach illness, the fruit of experience and my desire not to clean up more vomit than necessary:

# 1: If you feel weird and/or not hungry, don't eat.

This is the main rule I follow and by my estimate has saved me from half the times I would have gotten a stomach bug (judging by what happens to younger kids). The older kids and my husband also follow this when they remember, and definitely when anything is going through the house. We don't eat unless we're truly hungry. Many times when something is going through the house I've woken in the morning feeling slightly nauseous and not eaten most of the day. By the end of the day I'm getting true, clean hunger, and I eat something simple, and I've missed getting whatever it is.

# 2: If you throw up, don't eat or drink anything for at least 2 hours.

It's harsh, I know. Kids are thirsty and it's a time to use movies for distraction. But I found that if they ate or drank soon after, it just came up again, so it seemed like a waste overall, and their stomach seemed to do better with time off to settle down. After at least 2 hours we start with a teaspoon of liquid and wait 20 minutes. If that goes well, another teaspoon and waiting, and then we go up to a tablespoon. Half a day of thirst beats half a day of vomiting.

#3: Unless It's Charcoal

This is thought to help stomach bugs by absorbing the nastiness so it's inert and goes out the intestines. We've opened charcoal capsules and made "sludge water", or let kids swallow them with the smallest amount of water possible. It generally stops the vomiting after 1 or 2 doses. Drugstores carry it as "activated charcoal".

# 4: Sometimes, it's just low blood sugar.

I have a couple of kids who love protein and fat, and occasionally seem to get low blood sugar from their accidental kid-keto diet. If it happens that we're driving, so much the worse. This happened once on a field trip and I could not pull my daughter out of it.

She'd eaten a cheese stick before the trip. She felt queasy on the ride over and continued to lose the juice and food I tried to give her once we stopped. I suspected her blood sugar was low because of what she'd eaten. She was dry heaving on the way back, even without more food, so once we were home, the last resort before urgent care was to try to get her blood sugar up. But how to do that without triggering her stomach?

White sugar. It was gross for her to take little spoonfuls, but it did the job. I wasn't sending liquid into her touchy stomach, and her blood sugar apparently came up, because she was fine within a couple of hours (and several spoons of sugar). I've also heard of saltines working the same way, but we don't tend to have those around.

# 5: Some kids have touchy stomachs

Reminding myself that one kid isn't always the beginning of an onslaught helps my peace of mind. Too much sugar before bed can be a trigger. I've heard of kids who couldn't combine milk and acidic foods.

# 6: Clean and Contain

Since the fluids can spread illness, I spray and wipe down the bathrooms or whatever area, and try to keep a buffer zone around the sick kid. Siblings generally give each other plenty of space in hopes they won't get it.

#7 : Boost Immunity

If I remember, I'll take something to boost my immune system, and encourage the older kids to do the same. If everyone is getting rest and eating well, it's rare to have any illness go through the whole house. Some of us will get nothing or a lighter version, or it goes through so slowly that it's manageable.

Hopefully this helps someone! If you have other systems that work, please share and good luck!

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