The days are getting shorter. The nights are getting cooler. Yes, fall is coming. Even with the social distancing measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the highly contagious, very messy noroviruses will likely still be a presence in parents’ lives during the colder months.
I am especially susceptible to noroviruses due to my O blood type (yes, that is a thing!). Not being able to make it through a year without at least one (my record is four, two of which were in one month) very inconveniently-timed bout with the virus from hell caused me to develop an extreme amount of anxiety about puke.
Then came motherhood, and with it a certain amount of informal exposure therapy. Kids barf. Like, a lot. Mine perhaps more than others, because, guess what? All three of them have O-type blood too. Once, one of my kids went off like a firehose and shot their barf into my actual mouth. So, yeah, these days, I won’t have a full-blown panic attack if someone tells me about having a bug two weeks before, but I still tend to…overthink things, to put it kindly.
After being caught unprepared by barf many many times over the course of my life, I developed THE BARF BIN™, a 66-quart plastic tote that contains all the supplies I need to combat a literal sh*tstorm. I keep it in the hall closet, and I sleep so much easier at night knowing that I am ready to mobilize at the drop of semi-digested hot dog chunks.
Let’s go on a guided tour, shall we? What’s that, you say? You’re not as morbidly fixated on vomit as I am? How nice for you, move along.
There are two categories of supplies in THE BARF BIN™:
1. Supplies to help you in the Sisyphean tasks of cleaning up and preventing the virus from spreading. (Which may or may not work as advertised, as gastric viruses are tricky beasts. But you might get lucky! I have, on several occasions, prevented a virus from spreading beyond Patient Zero by utilizing THE BARF BIN™)
2. Supplies to help ensure that the afflicted party survives to tell the tale.
Containment & cleanup supplies:
1. Disposable emesis bags.
You know, the blue plastic ones they give you at the doctor’s office or the ER that look like condoms made for elephants.
You can buy them on the internet for a lot less than they are actually worth in terms of how much they improve the lives of both the patient and the caretaker. After use, just throw them away. No more spreading germs while emptying and rinsing barf buckets. And, unlike buckets, there is no unpleasant splash-back in the barfer’s face!
2. Disposable gloves
Don’t touch barf with your bare hands, mmkay?
3. Paper towels and plastic shopping bags
Having a healthy stash of these in THE BARF BIN™ ensures that I will never be scrambling for the supplies I need in order to clean up the mess on my floors, walls, beds, slippers (yes, this has happened) when the cookies start tossing. I, of course, glove up first.
4. Spray bottle of diluted bleach or a bleach-based cleaning solution.
After each germ-spreading episode (barf or…something else that we will not speak of), I spray everything in the immediate area with the diluted bleach, wait five minutes, then wipe. I make sure to get the sink taps, door knobs, and light switches too. But I do not spray my germ-ridden family members, no matter how tempting the thought may be.
5. Disposable bed pads
It is a truth universally acknowledged that kids, especially very young kids, are not great judges of when they are going to hurl. As a result, they often puke right in their bed. If you line the bed of the afflicted kid with absorbent pads, you might be able to escape changing the sheets for a sixth time.
6. An undiluted bottle of bleach.
For dumping in the washing machine with the inevitably puked-on sheets, because the chucks pads scheme isn’t 100% effective. But, Eva, you say, won’t that ruin your linens? Yes, probably. But I prefer splotched linens to letting even one microscopic, misery-causing organism escape its rightful death.
1. Electrolyte solution. Powerade, Gatorade, Pedialyte, pick your poison. We always try to keep a case in the pantry, but did you know they also sell powdered versions? Expensive, but they take up way less space, so they will fit in THE BARF BIN™.
2. Popsicle molds. Gatorade popsicles are the best thing ever when you’re so nauseated that you want to die, but also so dehydrated that you feel like each of your cells contains a miniature Mojave Desert. Just pour some Gatorade in the molds at the first sign of trouble, put them in the freezer, and, presto! They should be ready by the time the patient is recovered enough to sit up and eat one.
3. Various shelf-stable, easily digestible foodstuffs for when the afflicted party has leveled up from popsicles.
My faves are chicken noodle soup, crackers, and Jello. But don’t go too big too soon! Jello vomit will stain. Ask me how I know. The University of Michigan recommends waiting for several hours after vomiting before eating.
4. A bottle of scotch.
This isn’t for the afflicted party, it’s for you, the harried caretaker. Because your survival is important too! But, word of the wise, I wouldn’t make it a very nice scotch, in case you end up getting the virus too. That would be a very sad waste of good scotch.