Practical Plague Prophylaxis
January 14, 2016 9:54 PM   Subscribe

I've been home looking after my wife today who had one of those 1-day vomiting illnesses. My toddler who seemed ok today just vomited all over me. Help me to not get sick too!

I think I've already been exposed, so there may be nothing I can do at this point to avoid getting sick. I ate a bunch of sauerkraut on the off chance the probiotic bacteria can help. Any other suggesions?

I've been through this just a couple months ago with the whole family getting sick with vomiting one by one. I think I've been pretty dilligent about handwashing and disinfecting surfaces that had vomit on them. What are some other practical things that can be done around the house to prevent spread of diseases like this? Maybe things that have worked for you, or are often overlooked?
posted by Joe Chip to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If it's Norovirus, lots of hand washing is about your only (weak) defense. Purell doesn't kill it, FYI. Wash surfaces with a bleach solution and don't put your hands near your mouth. The virus can live on surfaces for two weeks, so it can be awhile before you're not at risk.
posted by cecic at 10:06 PM on January 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yep, hand washing with soap and hot water. Washing sheets and towels at 90°C probably wouldn't hurt either. In hospital we'd stick people in a side room and wear a plastic apron and gloves, with thorough hand washing after every contact. But you're right, in a house, there's not much you can do to avoid it if another family member is sick.
posted by snoogles at 11:31 PM on January 14, 2016

Close doors between people that have vomited and people who have not - norovirus can spread via aerosol created during vomiting.

Clean doorhandles.

Normal alcohol hand gel doesn't work to clean hands contaminated with norovirus spores - must be soap and water and thorough rubbing (you can look up good hand hygeine techniques).

Check up on anything shared - towels, eating utensils - remove and sanitise and don't share anything until you've all been symptom free for a week.

Don't eat food prepared by someone unless they are at least 48 hours clear of symptoms.

CDC seems to recommend cleaning everything twice daily during a norovirus outbreak, moving from low likelihood of contamination to high likelihood.

Page 11 of this document has a summary table of what UK hospitals are supposed to do:
Norovirus outbreaksf

Good luck - at least it doesn't last long.
posted by kadia_a at 11:37 PM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm going to offer a completely non-evidence-based suggestion: Be out in the sun as much as you can, even though that may not be much if it's winter where you are and with the fact that you're taking care of a sick toddler. Sunlight is a powerful disinfectant, and fresh air often just makes people feel better. No idea whether it will work on norovirus, if that's what's going around in your family, but it's a free and low-risk thing to try.
posted by lakeroon at 12:50 AM on January 15, 2016

As far as actual defense, yeah, copious hot handwashing, lysol/bleach wiping, etc. are the best you can do. But for your own peace of mind, ginger tea might help soothe your stomach and keep things moving the right direction as much as is reasonably possible. I know when I'm worried about that sort of thing I drink it just to avoid false alarms (nausea for other reasons) that would only upset me.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 1:49 AM on January 15, 2016

It sounds like noro, though I guess other 24-hour bugs are possible. I think prophylaxis is sort of a long shot at this point given that you've actually been vomited on, at least beyond being a little obsessive about hand-washing, especially before touching your face. If you want a glimmer of hope, some people are genetically resistant to norovirus, so if you've dodged a lot of previous bullets you may dodge this one too.

If you are disinfecting, make sure to specifically use bleach to clean any surfaces that have come into contact with stool/vomit. Alcohol and ammonium-based cleaners work on most bacteria, but have little effect on norovirus. Wash and machine-dry "contaminated" clothing by itself on hot, and dry until it is completely dry. CDC has a guide here.

Pepto may help control symptoms, even for viral bugs like noro (though your kid shouldn't have any, b/c salicylates).
posted by en forme de poire at 2:40 AM on January 15, 2016

Sometimes I think I get exposed after the worst of it is over for my family and I reduce my cleaning/ hand washing diligence. So keep being careful for a few days after everyone is better.
posted by metasarah at 5:25 AM on January 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your toilet paper roll suggests itself as a high-probability haven for fecal contamination. And maybe the taps on your bathroom sink.
posted by puddledork at 6:35 AM on January 15, 2016

Wash your hands as often as possible and pray to the elder gods.

I've reached the point of complete zen about toddler sickness, I'm either going to get it or I'm not. The lack of stressing out about it has actually helped, I feel, and at least I stopped worrying about every time she tries to feed me cheerios with snotty fingers.
posted by lydhre at 6:37 AM on January 15, 2016

If you want to keep hope alive while you're bleaching all the things, norovirus actually doesn't effect everyone the same way. Depending on blood type (no, really! it's an actual non-woo science-based true fact) plus one other genetic factor, some people either contract only a very mild form of the illness, and some other people are completely immune (about 30% of the population, according to the research I did). Something noro-like swept through our house right before Christmas. My son was miserable for 5+ days. My husband was down for about 36 hours. I didn't get it at all.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:57 AM on January 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

If your toddler vomited on you, you've almost certainly been exposed, but as others have pointed out, a) MAYBE you weren't and B) exposure doesn't guarantee illness. Norovirus is extremely virulent and contagious, but it definitely affects people differently. Neither my husband or I have had it in 20 years (even though MY toddler vomited on me earlier this year), nor have his parents or my father. Our kid has had only 1 barfing illness in his life, which I think is unusual for a 2-year-old. My mother and sister, on the other hand, catch it every 5 years or so. soren_lorensen is right that norovirus susceptibility has been linked to blood type (O is most susceptible) by a few studies, but a recent one showed no link, so it's not totally for sure yet.

Anyway, in terms of prevention, to fight norovirus you need bleach, and you need to leave it on surfaces for a while, not just spray and wipe. Do not touch your hands to your face at all. You might consider wearing a face mask. Wash anything contaminated on the sanitary cycle. Don't brush your teeth with any toothbrushes left out in rooms where infected body fluids have been. If you possibly can, use a different bathroom (we only have one, it's not always possible). Other tips above are good.

As an almost-life-long emetophobe, boy do I understand the wish to avoid this, but since I have a toddler I also focus on having a contingency plan including easily available bucket, trash bags, Pedialyte, saltines, bleach, extra towels, and thinking ahead to what I would plan to do should I become too sick to care for my child.
posted by Cygnet at 8:43 AM on January 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've read anecdotally that grape juice somehow kills stomach viruses... the acidity maybe? Never tried it because, yuck, but it's worth a shot.
posted by raspberrE at 2:33 PM on January 15, 2016

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