09 May 2012

How to Survive Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral Gastroenteritis. Most people call it the stomach flu, even though it is not at all related to influenza. You know how it goes, an acute onset of cramps, diarrhea and/or vomit, followed by the "hit by a truck" feeling. It lasts 24-48 hours, tops, unless you got it in India or Mexico, then heaven help you. 

Often it is caused by a virus, such as rotavirus (in children) or norovirus. Both are highly contagious. This year a school in my district was overrun with it, and it made me realize that few people know what the hell they're doing, so they spread it all over. You know who I mean: parents who tug their pale child into school and say, "Well he stopped puking around 3AM, so he'll be fine," or the cubicle-mate who keeps going to the bathroom and says, "whoo, I can't keep anything down today. But I'll just take this Zofran, here, and stick it out. BELCH." Worse yet, is that person working as a sous chef. As an emetophobe I hate these people. As a human being who has managed to be sick and nurse sick people without inevitably infecting the whole household, I thought I'd share some tips.

First, you must understand how you get sick. You eat it. That's it. It's not in the air, floating around, like the common cold. It exists in your emissions. You have to eat someone's emissions (on a microscopic level) to get sick. The only time the virus is (sort of) airborne is during an emission. Unless someone puked in your face, you got it from touching something, then putting food or fingers into your mouth. Or from a food service employee who did the touching part for you. 48 hours later... Bleagh. 

So, tip one is WASH YOUR HANDS. If you are ill, wash after every bathroom trip. Wash well. If you are not ill, wash your hands before you eat. Wash them after you go to the grocery store, the mall, work. In my house, I have a sign right by the front door that reads "SHOES. COATS. HANDS." This way, we don't drag crud in on our shoes and anything we have touched does not get smeared all over or ingested. You do not have to be OCD about this, just a few times a day will do the trick.

Hand sanitizers do not kill Norovirus, except for Wet Ones wipes, btw. Soap and water is the best defense. 

Tip two is QUARANTINE. If you are ill, stay in one bathroom, lie in one bedroom, use one bucket. The rest of the family can wait 24hrs and until after you shower to see you again. As a nursemaid, I simply wash my hands after delivering water and crackers to sick bay. This isn't as easy if you have young children who are ill, but you can teach them to use a bucket and keep them in one area. 

Tip three is simple: CLOSE THE LID WHEN YOU FLUSH. This prevents spatter from spraying all over the bathroom when the flush goes airborne. It will make cleanup easier and reduces risk if you have to use a shared bathroom.

Tip four DON'T PREPARE FOOD WHEN YOU'RE ILL. Wait two days after symptoms have stopped and then, make sure you wash your hands well or wear disposable food prep gloves. You may think I am being over-cautious, here, but this is the top reason people ingest the virus. This is the reason the last bit of my Disney trip was uncomfortable, to say the least. 

Speaking of, tip five is STAY HOME FOR GOD'S SAKE. Your kid was puking all night? Keep them home 24 hours after symptoms have stopped and make sure to bathe them well before letting them return. You shed noro in your fecal matter (even after it solidifies) for days and weeks afterward, so make sure they wash their hands after dropping a deuce. And you, too, tough guy or martyr lady. You may think you're strong for keeping on, but you are just going to get everyone at work sick. No one wants you there. Colds are inevitable, but no one needs what you got.

Last, but not least is cleanup. Tip six: BLEACH. Once the infected person is better and showered, go in there with gloves and a disinfecting bleach solution. Get all the knobs, switches, toilet, and exposed surfaces. For good measure, get the knobs and switches all over the house. Lysol is not completely effective and antibacterial wipes do nothing for this particular affliction. (They're good for E. Coli and salmonella.) Bleach and Wet Ones wipes are your only trusted disinfectants. Then take all clothes and bed linens and wash in HOT water. Then make sure the infected person keeps up their handwashing. 

If you follow protocol, you can prevent the spread of viral gastroenteritis. Thank you for reading my public service announcement. 

* A note about germaphobe-ism: Believe it or not, I am not a germaphobe. But this illness can have a high price. Not only does it make you feel terrible, it is downright dangerous for some people: infants, pregnant women and seniors in particular. Furthermore, there are people around you with compromised immune systems due to chemotherapy treatments, and other disorders and disease. You can send people to the hospital with this. You can damage kidneys. You can ruin mother's weeks, as they have to keep waiting 48 hrs until the next kid shits their pants. You can ruin people's vacations. (AHEM). So please have a conscience. 

1 comment:

Sienna said...

Thanks for the tips EM <3