How do I help my wife who is bed ridden with stomach flu?
November 18, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

My wife has stomach flu. What can I do for her?

This is the first time she has been bed ridden. Last night was spent in the washroom throwing up. I felt helpless. I just don't know what I can do.

We have two small kids. They are with me. House work is taken care of. She is in bed. Her diet prescription is stay on liquids.

What can I do to make this easy for her and how can I comfort her? What can I prepare for her (I am such a noob in the kitchen).

Also, we have boys 6 and 3. How can I make this a learning/appreciate situation for them?
posted by alshain to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you're doing great. As for what you can prepare, stick with the liquids for now. If she can stand broth, that might be good, since it will give her some sodium. Anything you can give her with salt and sugar (Gatorade, flat soda) is good. Once she starts feeling ready for solid food, things like saltines, plain noodles/rice and bananas are good.

Otherwise, just keep the kids out of her hair and make sure the house is cleanish. She might like to watch some movies, so you can set that up for her.

And remember, this sucks but it isn't a crisis. She'll be better in a few days!
posted by lunasol at 9:06 AM on November 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

Fluids are the most important -- water, ginger ale, whatever she can keep down. If she's been sweating maybe change the sheets when she's up for a minute.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:07 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mostly leave her alone and make sure the kids leave her alone. She needs water by her bed and tissue. Other than that, just explain to the kids that mommy needs rest right now and she'll feel better tomorrow.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:09 AM on November 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

And wash hands and disinfect like crazy because the chances are it's a virus and you don't want two small children with the same thing.

Personally if I've been vomiting I don't eat anything or drink anything but plain water for at least 24 hours, but that's not everyone's favourite. It certainly does no harm and it makes it less likely that I'll throw up again, which I find terribly traumatic.
posted by kadia_a at 9:10 AM on November 18, 2012

This might not be true for her, but it's hard for me to feel like I'm off "mom duty" when my child is in the same house as me. Even if I want to relax I always have one ear open in case someone needs me.

Try taking them out for an hour or two and let her know that you're taking them out for an hour or two.

Text her half of the way through telling her that they're doing great and asking if you can bring anything back.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:10 AM on November 18, 2012 [13 favorites]

Encourage her to drink sips of clear fluids as frequently as she can tolerate it. The more she doesn't drink or loses fluids through vomiting/diarrhea, the worse she will feel. If you don't have the kind of clear fluids she would like to drink in the house, then go out to the store and get them. Gatorade is better than water because it has electrolytes (salt/sugar) that help with dehydration more so than just water. Juice is less ideal and should be watered down because there is too much sugar in it and it can cause more diarrhea.

Have the kids make her homemade cards? I'm sure she would appreciate that, but mainly just the chance to rest and recover in peace.

Make sure she and everyone else are washing their hands or using hand sanitizer frequently - I think the very best thing you can do for her right now is making sure that the kids and you don't get the same thing she has!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:17 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks all of you. Great advice. Am taking kids out right now. I hope she doesn't need anything while we are out. I will leave a ginger ale in a glass beside her bed.

Anything warm I can make her without making myself look like an idiot (i mean something that is really easy). I don't even know where to start with broth.
posted by alshain at 9:20 AM on November 18, 2012

Can you get miso soup in a packet? When I had this a couple of weeks ago (at the same time as my one year old! yay!) I really wanted some. Also Dr Pepper. Also a bucket.

I agree with those who say that the kids are the biggest thing. Take them out if you can, or find some other way to get them off her mind and make it clear she doesn't have to deal with them at all. And wash your hands and their hands and try not to catch it. What we had was super infectious, lots of these bugs are.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:25 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since I live in Canada I am going to get her some tim hortons vegetable soup. I might also try and pop in a grocery story to look for the miso soup packets.
posted by alshain at 9:28 AM on November 18, 2012

You can buy chicken broth at the store.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:29 AM on November 18, 2012

You put broth in a pot and you heat it until it's hot - that's all there is to it. If you have bouillon cubes or other dry mixes for making broth then you need to look at the instructions to see how much water to add to the mix. Typically something like one or two cups of water per cube.

If you want to get fancy, add noodles to the broth once it is boiling. The noodles will tell you on the box how long they need to cook, typically 7-10 minutes. If you want to get even fancier, put some chicken into the noodles and broth. I suggest using pre-cooked chicken pieces (or soy chicken pieces which are available at most grocery stores) because now is not the time to learn how to cook chicken if you don't know how.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:30 AM on November 18, 2012

Electrolyte (or any other rehydration drink) and Loperamide HCl (in pretty much any OTC anti-diarrhea meds). Avoid all milk products, or barfing will ensue.
posted by scruss at 9:39 AM on November 18, 2012

When shopping for broth, look for the broth labeled "low sodium". You can find it in cans or in boxes, usually in the same place as the canned soups, in the grocery store. You want low sodium because regular is often super salty and not good for drinking. If it needs more salt you can easily add some. Just open it up and heat it. It might be nice to put it in a mug for easier drinking while in bed.

If you want to get very fancy, and your wife seems up to keeping some semi-solid food down, heat up the broth in a pot on the stove. Make sure it's at a low simmer - that means not boiling, but just a few bubbles regularly coming to the surface - and toss in a handful of plain white rice. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked all the way through. You can spoon some grains out and taste them to make sure. You can do this with any kind of broth, though of course chicken is traditional. If your wife likes the taste, it's also pretty traditional to put ginger in this. Not powdered ginger, though! Just a peeled chunk of fresh ginger. A little goes a long way. It settles stomachs, and tastes good too.

If you seem to have things around the house under control and the kids are dealt with and all, something that can get overlooked is clothes. What is your wife wearing? Is she in clean pajamas that don't smell like anything throw-up related and that are very comfortable to be in bed in? If not, make sure she's got the right clothes and that they're fresh-smelling.
posted by Mizu at 9:40 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are so sweet! I think it is great that you want to do your best to take care of your wife and i hope she feels better.

Warning: She may not be ready for real food for a while. Don't ply her with soup that you made specially for her so she feels obligated to eat it only to throw it up an hour later (though you are very sweet to want to feed her, her body just may not be ready yet).

When she is ready you could warm up some canned soup (stay away from seafood maybe) or give her takeout soup from someplace he likes. You don't have to cook it from scratch.

If you have time when you get back with the kids, I would, after asking her if there is anything specific she wants:

1. Make sure she has things to drink and see if she wants them freshened up.
2. Make sure she has something to barf into by the bed (that doesn't smell like barf) just in case she can't make it to the bathroom.
3. See if she is up for letting you give her a change in nightgown/bedclothes, since fevers make you hot and cold and it's uncomfortable sleeping in wet stuff. See if she needs more blankets or pillows to prop her if she wants to sit. And tissues!
4. Try to keep up with the laundry if possible.
5. Can you check out the washroom she was using and clean it up a bit, being very careful to clean yourself up afterwards so you don't get sick too?
6. When I am sick I want my daughter to know I love her and am thinking about her but want her kept away from me and my germs so I don't get her sick. If you can just keep taking good care of the kids while she is sick and keep doing so after she is over the worst but still feeling rough, that will help so much.

You sound like a sweetie. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 9:42 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

8 Natural Remedies for the Stomach Flu
posted by plokent at 10:12 AM on November 18, 2012

When I was on a liquid diet I got sick of sweet stuff fast, but it depends on her.

I hated Gatorade etc., so I had a problem getting rehydrated last time I had gastroenteritis in a bad way. This can be really dangerous (you can wind up having to go to the hospital and get on an IV -- be careful!). My doctor suggested Pedialyte freezer pops. I don't know if you have them there, but they are an electrolyte drink for kids that comes in a freezer bar (like Otter Pops or whatever they're called regionally). It was less nasty somehow and also got the stuff into my body in a nice time-distributed fashion.

Make SURE she feels absolutely free to ask you for anything. Tell her you're doing your best to discover what you can do, so she doesn't feel that she's putting you out. (You're doing a good job so far!)

DVDs, books, etc. at hand are nice.

And (I say this lovingly, man, because I've found out about all sorts of things I needed to learn to do since living on my own!) look at this as an eye-opener: ask for basic cooking lessons for the holidays or something, because who knows what will happen in the future. It's NEVER good if only one person can cook in a household, especially if there are kids. How much cooler would it be if you could do it together or you could smoothly take over in this kind of emergency? :)

Keep up the good work :)
posted by wintersweet at 10:19 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dude, don't overthink this. Soup in a can - buy six different kinds, one can each. Bread for toast. Ginger ale. I am 100% confident in your ability to manage all of those items!
posted by DarlingBri at 10:24 AM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Rice crispies in milk is my tummy-ache sick food. Just leave a little portion of it in a coffee mug she can try to take a few bites out of.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:25 AM on November 18, 2012

Ask her what her "sick food" is. I go right back to my childhood and want Sprite, saltines and Jell-O. My partner wants Gatorade, saltines and soup. I think most people have a comfort food that makes them feel nurtured when they are sick.
posted by kamikazegopher at 10:51 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

You sound like a caring spouse; keep up the good work.

onlyconnect mentioned possibly doing some bathroom/washroom cleanup. If you do that, be sure to wear gloves and use either Lysol or a bleach solution. See here for the bleach cleanup strategy (assumes a full scale cleanup but the strategy still is good for less thorough cleanup.)

Also, wintersweet beat me to it. I was going to suggest for the future that you learn at least a few basic cooking skills, even if it is just spaghetti with tomato sauce and grilled cheese sandwiches and the like. This is spot on: How much cooler would it be if you could do it together or you could smoothly take over in this kind of emergency? :)
posted by gudrun at 10:52 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just keep to the B.R.A.T. forumla and you'll be good.

Bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.
posted by Sweetmag at 10:59 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am in bed, right now, with the same thing your wife has. (I came down with it late last night.) This is after spending Wednesday–Friday at home to take care of my wife and our son while she had the same ailment. Here's what I want:

* To see my son every couple of hours. He makes me feel better. (D'aww...and now I miss him.)
* To generally be left alone.
* The house kept in reasonably neat order, instead of becoming a crumbling mess.
* Chicken broth with a few oyster crackers (despite the doctor's orders), watered-down Gatorade, popsicles, and, maybe tomorrow, egg drop soup.
* My laptop to watch Netflix.
* My dog to lie next to me.
* The toilet and bathroom floor scrubbed, so that when I'm curled around it or hurling into it, I don't feel any more disgusted than I have to.
posted by waldo at 11:24 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Plain white rice, bananas, peanut butter. Those things tend to help me out in these situations and are simple to prepare.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:33 AM on November 18, 2012

Keep her away from dairy and high fat foods! Stomach flus can quickly strip the gut of its natural ability to break down lactose and milk solids, and eating dairy too soon can really prolong the pain of flu-induced stomach problems.

Above all else, follow her lead. My ex refused to abide by the requests I made of him while I was sick and never left me alone when all I wanted was peace and quiet to feel as sick as I needed. Check in every few hours, but not every hour on the hour.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:40 AM on November 18, 2012

Let her rest, quietly. Some people are so anxious to help, and so desperate to "do something," that their hovering can be exhausting. It sounds like you're being exquisitely helpful and considerate. Doing more wouldn't necessarily make things any better; there is a point where it makes things worse.
posted by Corvid at 12:16 PM on November 18, 2012

Get cans of chicken broth and chicken noodle soup. Lots of broth, a few noodles. See also, chicken & rice soup. Saltines. Ginger ale. Ginger settles the stomach; there's probably not enough ginger in ginger ale to matter, but it's what I always drink when I'm sick. Also, tea with a choice of lemon or milk, sugar or honey. Don't ask, just show up every hour or 2 with either soup, ginger ale, or tea. Remove the old offerings as gets too cluttered. small portions are nicer. Some people enjoy jello when ill, and your kids would probably like it, too. It has directions on the box. Maybe some canned pears or mandarin oranges for when she's feeling better.

Put a clean towel on the bed near her pillow in case she can't make it to the bathroom. Make sure the bathroom is clean - wipe hard surfaces with a paper towel with Windex on it. Open the window, or turn on the fan; the smell of barf makes people barf more.

Bring her warm, damp washcloth to wipe her face, and a glass of cool water & a toothbrush for cleaner teeth.

TV and clicker if she wants it.

Try to do some laundry and keep the house from utter chaos. Get enough soup so you can feed the kids, too. Have them make her get-well cards.

If she can bear to get out of the bed for a little bit, and you have a spare set of sheets, I crave clean sheets always help when I've been ill.
posted by theora55 at 12:27 PM on November 18, 2012

Soda crackers (saltines) and carbonated drinks. Doctor's orders for sick kids, the Rx works for grown ups too. You guessed right - it is the soda that allows a sick stomach to keep this stuff down. Person vomiting must have fluids replaced.
posted by Cranberry at 12:57 PM on November 18, 2012

gudrun touched on something else that was a HUGE relief to me (even without kids), which was that when I was even horrifying myself, Mr. wintersweet just took care of the mess. <3 I still feel grateful when I think about it. But if you don't know the source (and even if you think you do, you probably don't without lab tests), you want to be careful about not getting it yourself, so do be cautious.
posted by wintersweet at 12:57 PM on November 18, 2012

I caught the norovirus last year and it was hell. Expelling things from both ends, for 24 hours. Couldn't keep down anything, including water. My stomach was pumping in my belly like a second, palpitating heart. Moving even an inch would bring a wave of nauseous agony.

Let's assume your wife feels the same. First things first, keep the kids away from her. To give her some peace (she'll need to sleep a lot) as well as keep them safe from catching the flu as well. They can shout encouragement to her through the door, but the bedroom should be verboten.

She'll need water water water. If she can keep that down, maybe some 7up--a little carbonated sugar is good. After that, some Saltines, simple soup, but nothing oily or greasy--skip the chicken noodle.

Sounds like you're already there. Check on her frequently. And: you're a good husband, be proud!
posted by zardoz at 5:06 PM on November 18, 2012

Show her this thread! It is very sweet.
posted by painquale at 6:06 PM on November 18, 2012

2nding poor sick waldo's suggestion, I'd want the bowl and floor clean and to be left alone with my laptop. Your poor wife and waldo, it's such a horrible way to feel, get better dudes. Isn't it funny how when you do get over it, you feel like you have a new lease on life?
posted by PaulBGoode at 8:30 PM on November 18, 2012

Buy her the softest toilet paper available - Cottonelle with Aloe & E. I used to suffer from IBS (still do occasionally) and it's the best for a bum that's being *ahem* over-active.
posted by deborah at 4:51 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

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