How can I avoid catching stomach bugs (stomach flu, stomach virus, norovirus)?

Answer: Don't get stomach viruses in your mouth.

When someone in your household comes down with the stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis), it is highly likely that someone else will come down with it in approximately 48 hours. (It can take a full week or more for the next person to fall victim, though.) "Stomach flu" is just a nickname for viral gastroenteritis. It is not related to influenza, the real flu. When you have a baby or toddler who is throwing up all over you and grabbing at their sore bottom while you change their diarrhea filled diaper (and then grab your face on the way to the bathtub), it is very difficult to protect yourself. However, if an older child or adult is sick, you have a much better chance. I have gotten dozens of e-mails from people telling me that they did successfully contain a stomach virus to just one person in their house. So, it is possible. If anyone has successfully contained the stomach flu to just 1 person in your house, please e-mail me your secrets and I'll post them here.

These are my suggestions for containing the spread of the stomach bug once someone in your house comes down with it:

    • Wash your hands like crazy. Don't forget under your fingernails and forearms.

    • Quarantine. Keep the sick person isolated. This is impossible if the sick person is a toddler. But if an older child or adult is sick, they should try to stay in their own room and bathroom. Don't let other people use the sick bathroom if at all possible. Give them a plastic bag lined trash can to throw up in, unless they prefer being camped out by the toilet.

    • Wear disposable gloves when taking care of a sick person. These are the nitrile gloves

    • that I buy on amazon. It is the best deal that I can find. Put gloves on before walking into the sick person's room and take them off before leaving the room. Keep gloves by the changing table. Wear them to change baby's diaper at the first sign of diarrhea. Wear the gloves until baby is all clean. Then take them off and throw them out BEFORE you touch baby's clean diaper and clean clothes. You still need to wash your hands and forearms afterward baby is dressed. It is easier to wear disposable gloves than to clean under your fingernails perfectly. Watch my video on what to keep on hand for stomach bugs. I have a demonstration in this video.

    • Consider wearing a face mask

    • (available in the pharmacy section or on amazon) when sitting with a vomiting child (as long as it doesn't frighten the child). That will help keep vomit particles from getting directly into your mouth.

    • Wear slippers or flip flops when entering the sick person's room and take them off before leaving. This way you won't track viruses around the house.

    • Clean with bleach or another cleaner that claims to kill norovirus (see my page about cleaning products for a complete list). Use paper towel or any wipes to clean up and throw them away. Then kill germs by spraying or wiping the area with a 10% solution of household bleach in water. However, bleach creates such terrible fumes and some surfaces can't tolerate bleach. I use the Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Wipes

    • is great for cleaning vomit and diarrhea off the carpet. They are not available in stores but you can get them on amazon. Regular Clorox wipes and Lysol wipes form the grocery store don't claim to kill norovirus. Don't forget doorknobs and light switches. Don't forget the handle to your diaper disposal system. Clean anything that a stray virus could possibly have landed on. If you can't get to the store, you can order all of the necessary cleaning supplies on amazon.

    • When someone throws up on the carpet or couch, clean it with whatever you can ( Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Spray

    • is good and usually doesn't fade anything), and then cover the area with a towel so people don't track any remaining germs around.

  • If the sick person wants to play with the ipad or tablet, cover it with plastic wrap.

    • When the sick person is well, have them take a good shower and put on clean clothes before they join the rest of the family in the common areas of the house. Put clean sheets on their bed. Their poop will still contain viruses for another week or two. Keep them using their own bathroom for another week if possible. If they can't keep using their own bathroom, make sure they have their own hand towel and wash their hands well after using the bathroom. Clean the toilet after they go number 2 every time. If the sick person is a child under age 10, YOU should wipe them wearing gloves when they poop when they are sick and for a few days after.

    • Wash soiled laundry on hot and use chlorine bleach if possible. If the laundry is something that can't be bleached and you don't want to just throw it away, wash it 2-3 times on hot. Wear gloves to handle the dirty laundry and wear gloves to transfer the laundry from the washer to the dryer because it will still have germs in it. My research has shown that even after washing on hot and 1.5 hours in a hot dryer, there are STILL live germs in the laundry. You can see my laundry experiments on this page. So, wash it at least twice if it had vomit or diarrhea on it and you can't use bleach. You can also quarantine laundry that had vomit or diarrhea on it for 2 weeks after you wash it if you don't want to use bleach. Also, run the washer by itself with bleach after you washed a vomit load to clean the washer.

    • Don't have company until everyone in your house has been well for at least 2 weeks and you have thoroughly cleaned. Norovirus can live for weeks on household surfaces. If you have company before that, make sure you warn them. Don't send children back to school until they have been symptom free for at least 48 hours. Don't go to work in food service until you have been well for at least 72 hours.

    • Make sure you are cleaning effectively! Watch my video on how to properly disinfect the toilet.

There are some things you can do to reduce your risk of catching the stomach bug in the first place. These common sense practices help you avoid lots of other illnesses as well. Some of these suggestions may seem extreme to you, but they are for people who really, really don't want to get sick.

1. Wash your hands. Everyone in your family must wash their hands the instant they enter the house when the come home from anywhere (playing outside, school, work, the grocery store, etc.). Everyone needs to get into this habit. It takes a while. My husband and I have been married for 19 years and he still forgets to wash his hands when he comes in. I still have to remind him (which he finds very annoying but I don’t know why he just can’t remember after 19 years). Of course, you all need to wash your hands before you eat anything, after going to the bathroom, after handling raw meat, and after changing a diaper. It amazes me how many parents I see let their kids eat without washing their hands.

2. When you can't wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that kills stomach flu viruses such as my-shield Hand Sanitizer

, Clorox Hand Sanitizer Spray or Zylast Antiseptic . It is not available at the grocery store but you can buy it here on Amazon. Most hand sanitizers don't kill norovirus, but these have been shown to kill the norovirus surrogates. See my page about hand sanitizers that kill norovirus for more suggestions

3. If your children are in daycare, make sure the daycare providers wear disposable gloves to change all diapers all the time. Encourage your daycare to enforce a rule where children may not come back to daycare until it has been at least 24 hours after diarrhea and 48 hours after vomiting.

4. Don’t visit with friends or family who just had the stomach flu. Make sure when you have visitors to your house, they have been well for at least 1 week. That means that when your in-laws (who had an intestinal illness 4 days ago) want to come visit your children, you have to tell them politely that they may still be contagious and you can see them next week. Definitely don’t go to the house of someone who had the a stomach bug until they have been well for at least 2 weeks. The viruses can live for weeks on surfaces. I have friends who recently had a bad stomach bug. They had visitors come stay at their house exactly 1 week after they were well. 3 of the 5 visitors got sick within 48 -72 hours of arriving. So, 1 week is NOT long enough to wait. Be brave and ASK people if they have been sick. When I get an email from a parent of a school friend who wants a playdate with one of my kids, I say always ask if anyone in their house has been sick with any type of vomiting or diarrhea in the past week before I let them come over. That has saved us many times.

5. Teach your children not to put their fingers in their mouths when they are in public places. Around age 4 my son started to understand this concept although he still slips up. (“But, Mom, my tongue was itchy.”) Furthermore, don’t you put your own fingers in your mouth. Don’t bite your fingernails. Don’t smoke (reason number 1 million why you shouldn’t smoke). Don’t chew on your pen cap. Keep your hands off your face as much as possible. No matter what, children are going to put their fingers in their mouths and touch their mouths sometimes. Most of the time they will escape unharmed. But trying to teach them not to touch their mouths is a good habit to start. Plus, they will have less acne as a teenager if they learn to keep their hands off their faces now.

6. Do not take a 1-year old or a thumb sucker to an indoor playground. Wait until the child is old enough to understand the “don’t put your fingers in your mouth” rule before you take them to an indoor playground. I am particularly afraid of indoor playgrounds because that is where my son got rotavirus. Imagine, someone brought a child there who was just getting over rotavirus. Their diaper leaked in one of the tunnels. My son crawled through it later that day. Then he put his fingers in his mouth. Yuck! If anyone has taken a 1 year old to an indoor playground and they did NOT pick up a stomach bug, please e-mail me your story. I would like to know that it is possible. I take my kids to OUTDOOR playgrounds all the time and have never had a problem. The sunshine does kill germs as you can see from my experiments on this page.

7. Be careful in public bathrooms. Touch as little as possible and wash your hands when you are done. I also have these little disposable gloves for children. They are useful for so many things from trips to public bathrooms to painting projects. Not surprisingly, these Glovies

were invented by a germ-a-phobic mom!

8. Keep some wipes with you. Keep a few of the Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Wipes in a bag in your purse to use on shopping cart handles and restaurant tables. You could also use bleach wipes. (You just run the risk of ruining your shirt if you lean on the handle while shopping.)

9. Use a Shopping Cart Cover

if you have a baby that you put in the seat of the cart. I cringe every time I see a baby sitting directly in the cold hard cart. The cart covers are so much more comfy! And you can attach toys to them! Just keep the cart cover in your car all the time. You do not need to wash it after every use. I only washed it once in a while if baby peed in it or spilled in it.

10. Don’t let your kids touch ANYTHING at the doctor’s office. No doors, no books, no toys, nothing. The doctor’s office is full of germs from everything that is going around. When my son was 5-years-old, I still put him in the umbrella stroller and wheeled him in to keep him restrained. I use a wipe to open the door and, of course, I bring my own pen. Do your best to avoid using the bathroom at the doctor’s office. It was no doubt used by a vomiting child sometime that day. The one time that I let my son walk in, (he was 3 years old) he licked the window in the exam room. We are so lucky that all we got was a cold from that. Thus far, we have not caught anything else from the doctor’s office. Yes, they clean the doctors office but probably not good enough. Our doctor's office uses a disinfecting wipe that does not kill the stomach flu viruses. I received an e-mail from a mom who works in a pediatricians office and she sent some FABULOUS ADVICE. Please read the first viewer comment for this advice.

11. Don’t eat food prepared by someone who recently had the stomach flu. Most of the time you won’t know that they were sick. But if your friend who had the stomach flu on Tuesday bakes you a banana cream pie on Friday, pretend you are too full to eat it. If she made you soup you could just boil the heck out of it and eat it. Norovirus has been shown to survive up to 170°F. My sister-in-law had just had a baby and sweet neighbor brought her over a meal. The neighbor said that she couldn't come in because they were all sick with a vomiting illness. She had no idea that she could give the new mom and baby their virus by bringing that meal.

12. If your restaurant food is supposed to be hot and it is served to you just warm, send it back to reheat. If you arrive home with your take-out and it is just lukewarm, reheat it to piping hot. Stomach flu viruses are often spread through food. Heating it up will kill these viruses.

13. Breastfeed your babies. Breast milk has been shown to block the binding of norovirus to its receptors2. This may help protect infants from getting norovirus. However, both of my son's got yucky stomach bugs when they were still breastfeeding so there is certainly no guarantee.

14. Don’t eat out of any communal bins of food into which everyone reaches their dirty hands. That means you don’t eat out of the jumbo jar of nuts on your coworkers desk, and you must pass on the giant bag of M &M’s in the break room. Besides, your waistline will thank you.

15. Don't eat raw oysters. It is not worth it.

15. Don't accidentally get a gulp of lake water or pool water. Of course, this is impossible. Every kids drinks pool water accidentally and most of the time they don't get a stomach bug. We have spent the last 4 summers swimming at a public pool multiple times a week and we never got a stomach bug from it amazingly. Once I was just standing outside the pool 2 feet from edge. I opened my mouth to say something and wouldn't you know a drop of pool water from someone's splash flew right into my mouth. Luckily, I was fine. So, there isn't that much you can do. My kids swallowed water every day. But you can still TRY not to drink pool and lake water. I still think it is worth the risk to give your kids a fun summer of swimming.

16. Don't smoke pot. Heavy marijuana use has been linked to severe vomiting syndrome. It is not the stomach flu, but it sounds awful.

17. Eat a healthy diet and take good care of yourself!

Please e-mail me your own comments and suggestions for avoiding the stomach flu.

--Annie Pryor, Ph.D.

Viewer Comments


Hi Annie,

I can't tell you how much your website has helped me. I'm definitely an emetophobe, and have been since I was a child. Since having children, I've become very good at handling my own children vomiting, but I still live in fear of experiencing it myself. I think the worst part (for me) is the anticipation of it happening. Last October, I started working part-time at a pediatrician's office....can you imagine?!? My co-workers find my obsessive hand washing rather amusing. Anyway, I thought I'd give you a few tips from an "insider"....Of course, every doctor's office is different in how they clean and handle infectious situations. I do consider the office I work for to be a great group of pediatric doctors, so I can only assume that most offices are somewhat similar.

-Doctor's offices do NOT clean that well. They are busy and rushed, and most of the time they pull down fresh paper on the exam table and that's it. At the end of the day, a hired cleaner comes in, but there is definitely no hard core scrub down. If a child vomits in a room, it's mopped up with a NON-bleach solution and in a rushed manner.

-Stay AWAY from the sticker bucket! Ask the receptionist to grab a clean sticker from their supply in the back. I can't tell you how many actively vomiting children stick their hands into that bucket every day and put several stickers back before selecting one.

-Clean the bottom of your shoes and stroller wheels after leaving the doctor. I cringe when I see people walk right over a spot that was recently vomited on.

-I recommend changing clothes if you choose to sit in the chairs in the waiting room, or in the exam room. I don't think I've ever seen these cleaned.

-If you arrive at the office and there's a child in the waiting room who is hanging over a bucket, you can request a face mask. Most offices have them readily on hand.

-Use your own pen, and clean off your credit card if you pay with it at the office. The receptionist is sharing pens with everyone (including that Mom that just changed her baby's diarrhea diaper in the middle of the waiting room, and then didn't wash her hands!) Plus, I've worked with three receptionists recently who had the stomach bug and came back to work the next day, even though they still were not feeling well.

I hope these tips can help you, and maybe others, in the future. I'm vigilant about hand washing, take a daily probiotic and vitamins C and D to boost the immune system, and try to get 8 hours of sleep every night. I know it won't completely protect me from the evil stomach virus, but I'm sure that it helps (most definitely the hand-washing). Thank you again for your wonderful site! I've bookmarked it and look forward to updates and new info.



Back on Oct. 13th, 2015 my son came down with the dreaded *sv. 12 hours of 'symptoms.' But for the next 2 weeks I was on guard trying to prevent the rest of us from getting it... and here we are (18 days later) and no one else caught it! :) So, there's hope. ;)

My son is 5. My strategy this time was to keep HIM from spreading it. After each v* or d* episode, he'd get a bath and hands zylasted. After his symptoms ended, I still had him use Zylast about every 4 hours - that way, hopefully he wouldn't spread the virus to the items he touched. The rest of us used Zylast as well - especially before eating. I also wiped his bottom after he did a "#2" for 2 weeks after he was sick (again, he is 5, I felt I could do a more thorough and complete job than he could.) I also used hydrogen peroxide on the toilet he used - and that was 'his' bathroom for 2 weeks.

(*TMI warning) I honestly thought I was doomed, because one of his v* episodes resulted in my bare hands being covered in his v*. It came on so suddenly! I cleaned everything up and showered... and surprisingly, I escaped!! So, again... there's hope. Be diligent with hand washing, and try to stop it from the source when it hits your household. I know it's not fool-proof, but it worked this time around - 3 out of 4 of us steered clear! (win!)

PS - He caught it from a boy at church. The boy was 'symptomatic' on a Weds, symptoms had ended by Thurs, but that contagious period lasts 3-14+ days... it was the 4th day after symptoms, he came to church, and exposed everyone in his class. ugh! My son came down with it 44 hours later. (And I was kicking myself because I remembered I hadn't given him zylast to use before church, and even remembered while he was in class, but didn't want to interrupt. Lesson learned!


Change clothes and shoes after leaving the sick room.

Lysol everything in the bedroom and bathroom where the person is contained before it leaves the room, and no one goes in but me ( or my husband if I'm the sick one, it happened once). I leave a trash bag at the door, and a pile of clean clothes, take off what I was wearing when in the room, put it in the bag, and slip on new clothes. Trash bag goes to the laundry room once a day or more as needed. Same with shoes, I leave if at the door. That seems to have worked. I also pray a lot, if you are a believer, that helps tremendously, if anything for some peace in your heart. Just saw your post about your husband, so sorry.



My 6 year old daughter had a terrible stomach bug that caused her to vomit about 10 times the first day and off and on for 3 more days. She couldn't even keep sips of water down. I finally took her to the ER and they gave her Zofran which stopped the vomiting. It was a small zofran tablet that melted in her mouth. I know she caught the virus from school because the stomach flu was really going around her school. Plus, 3 days before she got sick she said "Mommy, I saw 3 kids throw up at school today." I also have a 5 year old and a 12 year old and worked very hard to makes sure no one else caught my daughter's illness. I kept her quarantined in her room and no one went in there but me. So, I would have been the person most likely to catch it. It has now been 1 month since Katie was sick and I am amazed that no one else in the family caught it. I went to great lengths cleaning to keep the family healthy. The only thing I didn't do was wear disposable gloves. This is what I did.

- My daughter vomited into a white plastic trash can lined with a trash bag. She did not go to the bathroom to vomit. Immediately after a vomiting session, I tied up the trash bag and walked it out to the garage trash can. I sprayed the door knobs and trash can handle when I was done. I put a new trash bag into the trash can next to her bed.

- I washed my hands in the bathroom, then sprayed the sink/faucet/door knob and whole door with Lysol. Then I left the bathroom and Purelled my hands just to be sure. I used medical grade Pseurell given to my by a friend who works for the Purell company. I did this each time I stepped foot in her room - even if I didn't touch her or anything.

- My daughter was quarantined to her bedroom for 5 days. She only came out to pee on the potty a few times.

- All other children were moved out of the kids' bathroom onto our bathroom and didn't step foot back in there for 13 days.

- No other child was allowed to go into her room at all. My husband barely went in.

- I used up 2-1/2 large cans of spray Lysol within one week.

- I used up a full regular size Clorox bleach within 5 days.

- I bleached all laundry - even darks.

- I turned up my hot water heater to be sure the hot laundry was hot enough. I knew I had tons of laundry to do and many showers to take. In addition, I wanted my dishwasher to be hot enough.

- I sprayed the laundry baskets inside and out with Lysol after every use paying attention to underneath the handle. I made sure not to brush against myself with the laundry or basket containing her dirty laundry.

- I sprayed the laundry room floor with Lysol

- I washed all clothing/bedding/pillows/comforters in hot water (even my daughter's pony tail holders)

- I sprayed the washing machine lid/lip with lysol after putting dirty laundry in

- I sprayed the bathroom sink/faucet/toilet with Lysol after every use

- I Lysoled off the pump of the Purell

- I Lysoled off the pump of all liquid soap bottles.

- After a vomiting session with her, I changed my clothes as soon as possible. I kept my clothes in with her clothes in a separate laundry basket.

- Even though my daughter was not around the family for 5 days, I used Clorox Cleanup several times a day on the following: kitchen counters, faucet, knobs, remote controls, handrails, kitchen table, etc.

- I washed my dishes on the "sanitize" setting on my dishwasher. I was sure to take my daughter's dishes straight from her room to the dishwasher. Then I Clorox Cleanup-ed the sink and dishwasher handle each time.

When she was well and ready to join the family, I cleaned her room again. Here's what I did:

- took all her bedding straight to the washing machine. Washed it all on hot water with bleach. Dried on highest temp. Lysol sprayed the outer surfaces of the washing machine that the dirty laundry had touched. I even washed her pillow for the third time in the course of this illness.

- all toys, dolls, books, etc. on shelves in her room were coated with Lysol until wet and left to dry. Anything that was not valuable was thrown away (notebooks, tissue boxes, chap stick). Stuffed animals were washed in hot water.

- I threw away her toothbrush and toothpaste and gave her new ones. I sprayed the bathroom drawer where her toothbrush was kept with Lysol.

- Her fabric headboard and bedskirt were sprayed with Lysol

- The inside and outside of her bedroom door was sprayed with Lysol.

- Her entire carpet was sprayed with Lysol until damp.

- The hallway carpet from her bedroom to the steps was sprayed with Lysol until damp.

- While cleaning, I opened her window to let in fresh air and so I wouldn't choke on all the Lysol even though it was 28 degrees out.

- I used Clorox Cleanup on all bathroom surfaces (tub, sink, floor, toilet). Then I "fogged" the whole bathroom with Lysol before I shut the door and turned on the fan for several hours.

-We are Catholic and I did a LOT of praying!

It was a ton of work and stress but NO ONE ELSE GOT SICK!


The key is isolation, one sick bathroom, plastic bag-lined buckets only for the act. Plus, you never know if it hits both ways, the bucket is the only way to go. It is easier to dispose of and at your beck and call wherever you are. Less mess overall which is the key to eliminate spread and aerosolization. The only thing I would add (to Christine's comment above) is that I have a family of 4 and we each have our own bucket ready to go when it strikes. We ALWAYS all keep our toothbrushes separate from each other, not out in the bathroom but stored away. When sick, no toothbrushing, just swooshing with listerine and replacement of the toothbrush and paste when in the clear. We use paper cups, paper towels, and disposable everything for quick removal and immediate disposal.


I contained norovirus to one person!


Christmas: my in laws neglect to tell me they had noro. We go unwittingly, and my youngest daughter uses the same bathroom my father in law had been having diarrhea in. He had been in Seattle where there was an outbreak of stomach flu, flew back to Virginia and promptly got sick.

4 days later she vomits several times.

We have a NYE party planned for 20 people.

Here's what I did:

I quarantined all laundry affected- including her stuffed animal that she was using as a tissue (so gross). Put in a trash bag in the garage for a few weeks. Ended up throwing it all away!!

Last time I used Lysol on everything. This time I carefully bleached everything in the house: doorknobs, railings, all surfaces of unaffected bathrooms including the walls.

The vomit bathroom: closed the door, and didn't go back into it. As a matter of fact we still haven't gone into it! And we are moving in 3 weeks so we will just avoid it forever now

I used my Smart San hand sanitizer post-hand washing (which I've emailed you about before- I think it's almost identical to Clorox's sanitizer). I decanted it into a small bottle and have used it to cover my kids hands and cuticles frequently.

We had our NYE party, but I warned all guests that noro had been in the house. I changed plans and didn't cook any food- bought food pre-made and had others bring packaged food (chips, salsa, etc.)

We didn't handle ice- we bought ice scoops and touched food as little as possible.

Success! Nobody else got sick- not even me from tending to my vomiting child!

I do believe that the laundry quarantine plus the bleach made the difference. I'm seriously considering setting aside some clothes to be earmarked for wearing during a bug and throwing away. I may also buy some extra towels as junk towels to use.

In the end, throwing away things is worth the benefit of keeping others safe and reducing the chance that noro will circle back around to us again.



Just wanted to let you know what happened to me last year. My husband got the stomach flu in November 2011. He is a nuclear medicine technologist and works with patients all day long. He came home one evening, we ate dinner and he drank out of my glass that evening. Later on the night, he started having severe diarrhea and then started in with the vomiting. It was so bad and he was getting so weak, I called 911. They came out and of course, he said he was fine. The symptoms persisted and he became worse. I ended up taking him to the hospital and he was vomiting while we were checking in. I was terrified I was going to get it because he had been drinking out of my glass. I have Addison's disease and it can be fatal for me if I start vomiting and can't stop so I was really, really scared. I started praying immediately when he was in the hospital and prayed and prayed and prayed that I wouldn't get it. I was praying nonstop seriously. He was in the hospital for over 8 hours and then they released him with a bunch of meds to stop the vomiting and diarrhea. I did not get sick. I had cleaned up after him and I wasn't wearing gloves. I think the praying really helped. I prayed for the whole 8 hours, I know it sounds excessive but I really didn't want to get it with me having Addison's disease. I am paranoid every year that he or I will come down with the stomach flu.


Topeka, KS

PUREGREEN24, Oil of Oregano, and Lactobacillus Reuteri,

Hello, I just wanted to share a few things in my personal arsenal, as an emetophobe, because I keep thinking, "I need to tell the group about this!" every time I'm using them:

1. PureGreen24: all-natural, non-toxic disinfectant that kills norovirus. I use it on everything. Kind of expensive, but well-worth it, I say. I use a lot more during the winter, as you might imagine. Has somewhat of a residual 24-hour disinfectant nature. Google it and you'll find the website, where you can order it and read about it.

2. Oil of Oregano: I get mine from It is a very powerful, all-natural virucide, antibiotic, etc. I don't have perfect scientific proof, but I got the bug that was going around last winter that was brutal on most people I knew, and I took this every hour while I was awake, a few drops at a time, and I did not vomit, and I think I got it in a much milder form. Google it and you will find a ton of info on it. I've been using it for years with no side effects. Also, check out this page: It references swine flu, but this page is a protocol for stomach "flu", and it's the one I use.

3. Lactobacillus Reuteri, again Google it and you will find lots of articles on how it can prevent or lessen stomach viruses, particularly in children.

Okay, gotta go back to mom duty, but hope this is helpful!


Tips for containing the spread of a stomach virus

Hello…my name is Tracey and I came across you website about a week ago when my 17-year-old son came down with some kind of NASTY stomach bug. I noticed that you asked if anyone was able to contain the illness to only 1 person in the household, to email you and share tips.

It’s been 8 days since my 17-year-old son started the symptoms at 1:30 in the morning…sudden vomiting, diarrhea, and then shaking chills. I’ve been able to keep this away from my almost 3-year-old son, myself and my husband so far, and I’m still hoping we’re past it!

So here’s the tips. First of all, I knew for a more than a week before this happened that my son was exposed to the virus at his girlfriend’s house. (TIP #1 – STAY CLEAR IF YOU HEAR SOMEONE IS SICK.) I warned him to stay away until it ran its course, but being a teenager, he didn’t listen. As soon as I knew he was still frequenting his girlfriend’s house, I started disinfecting everything he touched with bleach (diluted 1:10 with water and wiped off with paper towels, NOT cloth rags). I did phones, remotes, doorknobs, countertops, microwave, refrigerator, toilet, etc…any surface he might have touched. I also cleaned my wood floors with a bleach solution and sprayed my carpets with the Lysol III spray that claims to kill Norovirus. So, the virus ran through his girlfriend, her sister, her mother and then finally her father, and my son STILL felt untouchable. One day after his girlfriend’s dad felt sick, I had early Easter dinner on Saturday at my house, and my son was there briefly and had contact with some family members. None of them came down with the illness. He started feeling sick at 1:30 a.m., and my 3-year-old was safely sleeping in his room with his door shut, and my husband and I were sleeping in our bedroom as well with the door shut.

I got up briefly a few times with my son when I heard him being sick to help him out (having NO hands-on contact with him). I had him promptly take his soiled underwear (nasty bad surprise for him) outside to the garbage container. He showered after he vomited and had diarrhea the first time. I instructed him to wash his hands each time he was sick, which went on for almost 8 insufferable hours, for him and me, cause I heard it all thru the walls. When my little one woke up in the morning, I quickly shuffled him from his bedroom and out the door, where we promptly went to grandma & grandpa’s house for Easter Sunday dinner and spent the night. My husband went home that night and disinfected every possible surface he could with diluted bleach (wearing gloves AND mask, and washing meticulously afterwards), sent my sick son (no longer vomiting) to his room in the basement, and slept at home.

It doesn’t stop there! I actually locked off the bathroom my son was sick in for a week and did not allow anyone but him to use it. I kept my 3-year-old out of that bathroom (where he usually takes his bath) and gave him showers in the other bathroom. I also kept him out of the living room and off the couch, where my older son had slept in between bouts of being ill. I did not allow my little one to touch any surface that might have still harbored germs. I pretty much kept him confined to his own room, my room or outside the house. This is VERY difficult! I did not allow him to eat anything ANYWHERE but my bedroom in the first few days, because toddlers touch everything and put their fingers in their mouths. In the meantime I used the Lysol III spray on the furniture and carpet multiple times and continued bleaching touched surfaces, even spraying dishes used by my ill son with bleach solution before putting them in the dishwasher on HI TEMP WASH. I threw out all boxes of Kleenex and bought new ones.

In addition…I had my son bag the bathroom rug, the toilet seat cover and all towels that were near the toilet where he was sick and had him carry them out to the GARBAGE himself when he felt better (When in doubt, throw it out, just like food). Then, as overkill, I rinsed all the items that were on the countertop in the bathroom in bleach solution (hair spray, makeup, anything on the counter). I did all laundry in HOT water and added bleach as I could. I have also been meticulously bleaching countertops, chairs, tables, doorknobs, and anything my little one might touch, for the last week!

I’m sorry for such a long story (I’m definitely emetophobic and a little OCD after this), but I really think the simple answer is this: If you want to avoid this virus, clean daily with bleach solution and wash your hands…and make sure all others wash their hands…not just before eating but as soon as they come in the house. And continue to disinfect surfaces the ill person has touched long after they are feeling better.

And lastly and maybe most importantly…another thing I’m thinking…watch out for the feet! If someone is vomiting/having uncontrollable diarrhea at the toilet and walks out of the room…how much got on their feet and contaminated the rest of the household? And how…in heaven’s you control that….I used Lysol spray on the carpet but I’ve heard deep steam cleaning might be the only way to be sure. I can’t go that far on my budget now.

Thanks so much for your website and all your information, helping the OCD/emetophobe…


More tips to avoid stomach bugs

All of your tips are great and are things I do all the time. Here's some other tips that I think has helped in our house: when starting the sick person on liquids, use paper cups (we use the 3 oz bathroom ones). Bring them a clean cup each time so you don't have to touch what they touched. Then of course be very conscious about what you've touched that they touch. The sick kid is not allowed to touch the remote. If they are feeling better and they are using the remote, no one else is allowed to touch it until it has been disinfected. Of course, Lysol spray has nearly destroyed our remote. Wiping it with the clorox wipe and leaving it wrapped in the wipe for a long time seems to help. Perhaps a paper towel soaked in bleach water would be better...I'm also grateful we now have a dishwasher...We cover the couch with a big beach towel for the sick person to sit on. No one else can use it. We have had times in this household when only one person gets the bug -- miraculous but true.

We run our toothbrushes through the dish washer everyday. My friend who is a microbiologist (like you) does the same, just not every day. This helps to make sure no one's germy toothbrush touches the next person's.

We live in an apartment building -- despite years of good enough health using the laundromat in our old neighborhood, since moving to this building which is filled with little kids, I now wash everything in hot water. People do the grossest things and there's no telling what they just washed before me in cold water! Those few items that do need to be washed in cold go in a machine after I've used it for one of my hot loads -- preferably the whites that have had bleach in them as well. People in their own homes would be well advised to disinfect their washer regularly, wash their undies with bleach always and wash the sick person's things in hot water -- if not throw them away I think!


Stomach flu prevention

Thank you for your website full of tips. I have been a germophobe for a couple of years now and really cannot remember the last time I was sick---including colds and certainly including the memorable stomach flu. I recently read Germ Proof Your Kids , a primer on the germs behind common illnesses, written by a pediatrician and infectious diseases specialist (Harley Rotbart). I do not have kids but read the book because my husband is immunocompromised due to TNF blockers taken for a chronic condition. I summarized his tips that would certainly be applicable to avoiding the stomach flu, among other things, here.

I'm particularly glad you called my attention to the fact that quaternary ammonium disinfectant wipes don't deal with the stomach flu virus. Those wipes have been my default disinfectant for most things, but I guess I'll be switching to bleach now.


I just wanted to post that over the past year, I have learned a lot about nutritional health and how important eating REAL, healthy foods, rather than all the processed stuff that is available now. It has been SO beneficial to the health of my entire family. We rarely eat sugar, and have eliminated most processed foods, and our immune systems are so much healthier. So far this year, I've only had to deal with my 4 yr old with a runny nose once. Maybe it's just luck, but I think it has a lot to do with eating healthier. Just a thought...


I wanted to let you know, we have gone to the indoor play area at the mall, several times, without ever becoming sick. Of course, I only go on weekdays, when most people are at work and school, and in the months when sicknesses aren't so prevelant. Also, we immeadiately wash our hands with soap and water when we're finished playing. AND, I have, also, taught my daughter not to put her hands in her mouth or touch her nose or eyes if she hasn't just washed her hands. But, I do agree with you that they are probably one of the most germ-infested places around. My niece's daughter picked up whooping cough from an indoor play area. I think being in indoor groups is a HUGE factor in becoming sick more often. My friend has a daughter almost the same age as mine (2), and she has been sick multiple times the past few months, and she stays in the church nursery 2 to 3 times a week. In fact, she is sick right now with a horrible stomach virus picked up from a boy that had diarrhea at church nursey this past week.


Tips to avoid the stomach flu from Kristin

    1. In my household, everyone gets their own toothpaste container! It started that we all just prefer different brands, but it has become a smart way to contain a virus.

    2. We have a refrigerator that dispenses water "from the door" so not only do I disinfect the buttons to choose ice or water, I especially disinfect the area where you press your cup, because if a sicky has drunk from a glass and then pushes it up against the fridge door to get more water... yup. Germs ahoy.

    3. Also, particularly during the winter months, I make sure my family eats yogurt every day - or I sneak drinks containing probiotics into the menu. Studies say that people are 30% less likely to be affected by a stomach virus even if they ingest it if they consume a probiotic daily. And, to be on the safe side, I also try to get my family to eat cranberries or drink cranberry juice if we've recently come in contact with someone who's symptoms have eased, but are still in the contagious phase.

    4. School lunch boxes and backpacks are rife with germs, and I'm trying to get better about keeping those clean too. Same with coats and gloves. Keeping shoes off is the next hurdle. I am guilty of leaving mine on all the time...


I have read your site a lot once when my dad came down with the stomach flu. Me, my mother, and my brother were all in the household during this time. Behold, as you will be blown away at what I am going to say:

None of us got sick. We didn't disinfect anything. MY mother slept with him, cared for him, and cleaned up after him. HE made us dinner one of the days he was sick and we all ate it, and none of us got sick.

I was exposed to him several times, and I am a hardcore Emetophobic. I had school and just stayed in my room most of the time.

For some reason I got the fever and an urge to use the bathroom one day and stayed home. I just had fever, and I had no vomit and no diarrhea. I have absolutely no clue how that was possible. I recovered in just two days. The rest of my family had NOTHING.

So it isnt impossible that nobody will get sick, so don't scare people saying so. Let me tell you some secrets of how I have my amazing immune system (my parents tell me how):

-I was breast fed for a long while.

-I was barely exposed to antibiotics as a child (this helped strengthen my immune system)

-I was never expose to daycare centers.

I believe that my immune system must've been that good to get none of my family sick. So put that as advice for better parenting as a secret. Other than that, I am being serious, we didn't get sick.:)



I was just reading at your site where you asked if anyone has had someone in their family have the stomach flu and if no one else got it to email you. When I was little when me and my brother would get the stomach flu neither of my parents ever got it one time. And when I got it when i was 12 years old no one else got it and my brother has gotten it several times and me and my parents never got it. The stomach flu scares me to death. The last time I had it was when I was 12 years old in 1984 and I'm now 40 years old.and just a couple years ago where i work someone threw up on the floor and down the hallway and my supervisor cleaned it up and so did another person and neither one of them got sick. I was so glad that i wasn't there that day. But I wanted to tell you because i saw where you said you don't know anyone who has avoided the stomach flu like that but they really have. and it only spread at our house when me and my brother were in grade school but just between me and him, not my parents and sometimes we did throw up on the bed or floor and they stayed right with us and cleaned it up.