10 Tips for Battling a Stomach Bug: A Mom’s Guide


It is 3 a.m. and I am writing this from my stomach bug vigil. Not long ago, I was awoken by her cries of distress and found what has become one of my mom nightmares: puke everywhere.

What happened next is a choreographed dance perfected over the years. This dance begins and ends with laundry. I roust my husband for his supporting role and make sure my costars, bleach and Lysol, perform their featured solos.

Somewhere along the way, this all became routine, but I remember the first time I got the puke call. I remember the fear and panic.  I remember the struggle to keep up with the mess and the trial and error to find what helps.

There are few more unifying experiences in motherhood than the dreaded stomach bug and now I am sharing everything I know about how to fight the good fight. 

Tip: Always Be Stocked

When the vomit hits the porcelain bowl, no one wants to venture out for supplies. It’s best to keep your sick kit well-stocked and ready to go. In addition to Tylenol, a thermometer, saline, humidifier, and tissues, I like to keep hand sanitizer, bleach, and Lysol on hand, as well as a supply of coconut water and saltines. My typical apothecary supplies for homeopathic remedies include: Epsom salt, essential oils, carrier oil, and roller balls. I also store designated buckets for puke.  

Tip 2: Sick Zone

Sick Zone. When one of my kids starts puking, my first thought after the expletives are, “I hope no one else gets it!” The sick zone or “sicky island,” as I like to call it, is a vital brick in the wall between me and a stomach bug domino effect. One of our bathrooms becomes the “sick” bathroom, and the sick person is confined to his or her room. I then sanitize the whole house–and as long as the sick person stays on his or her island, and the rest of us minimize contact and wash hands like it’s our jobs (WHICH IT IS!), we should experience a decreased risk of getting sick. 

Tip 3: Get them in a Bath

This is the very first thing I do with a “pukey” kid. Part of that is practical: wash off the puke and germs. Another reason is my daughter often is upset after vomiting and the warm bath calms her. There are a plethora of other benefits to giving a bath. The warm water soothes achy muscles. A cooler bath can help to relieve fever. Steam and moist heat from a bath help relieve congestion. You can add Epsom salts to a bath to help ease body aches and boost white blood cell count. They can also act as a carrier for essential oils for a benefit that is two-fold. If you want to know more about what they are and what they do, check out this informative article on the website Healthy Holistic Living

bath salts are a great way to battle the stomach bug with essential oils

Tip 4: Call in the Essential Oils

I use essential oils in conjunction with traditional medicine for virtually every illness in our house. For a person who has a stomach bug, essential oils are an essential part of my sickness toolkit. You can diffuse them around the house or in a bedroom. Add them to a carrier oil and apply to the skin; or add to Epsom salts and dissolve in a warm bath (check out my recipe for stomach bug bath salts above). Most people agree that the blends of DiGize/DigestZen and Thieves/shield oils are a sickness staple. Other useful oils include peppermint, lemon, lavender, oregano, and melissa. Now, this should go without saying, but please do your homework before using any homeopathic remedy. I am not a doctor and this is just what I do for my family. We all know that what is right for you and yours may be completely different. 

Essential oils are an effective treatment for the stomach flu


Tip 5: Puke Bucket

The bucket sits next to the ill person in whichever room you’ve sequestered them in. It is the first line of defense against not being able to make it to the bathroom in time. Towels are the second line of defense. It’s vomit. You can’t have too much protection. I can’t bear to have people vomiting in my mixing bowls, so I keep a supply of small plastic bathroom waste baskets on hand.  I know it’s a weird thing to be finicky about and, in a pinch, most anything will work, But these are tall enough to prevent splash, bleachable, and cheap enough to throw away if need be. 

Tip 6: Towels

 When dealing with vomit, towels are my best friend. This is a tip I learned from another mom during my daughter’s first bought of stomach bug. Towels are absorbent, washable (and bleachable), portable, and most people have many of them. My friend uses a towel as her vomit safety net. In addition to covering any surface her child is sitting on in towels for easy clean up, she also keeps one close at hand and uses it to catch puke should her child not make it to the bathroom in time or miss the bucket. 

Tip 7: Beyond B.R.A.T.

The BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) has long been the tummy trouble recovery standard. Did I mention that my daughter’s first bought of stomach bug lasted for 12 days? Yeah, it was bad. What more, keeping a toddler on the BRAT diet for that long just wasn’t happening. That was when I went looking for alternatives and discovered there have been several articles published, like this one by Live Strong, that have discouraged use of the traditional bland diet in favor of foods that offer more nutrients and recovery power.

  • Consider coconut water over sugary electrolyte replacement drinks.
  • Broth or blended soups that are broth- and vegetable-based are soothing and nutrient-rich.
  • Low-fiber cereal, either warm or cold, is a good carb-alternative to rice or toast.
  • Eggs are a great mild food; they are high in protein and low in fiber. Just don’t cook them in a lot of oil.
  • Potato, squash, yams, and other soft veggies without skins are another good choice. 
  • Melon and peaches canned in juice (not syrup) make a great addition to bananas and applesauce. 

Tip 8: Preventative Miracles?

One of the things that I love about writing for Seacoast Moms is that most of the time I’m learning right along with my readers. This preventative gem I discovered while researching for this piece. And, while I can’t say that I am looking forward to needing it, I CAN say I’ll be happy to try it when I do need it. Multiple sources mentioned both grape juice and activated charcoal as safe and effective methods for preventing catching a stomach bug once it enters your home. This article from Abbie at M is for Mama combines the two to make what she calls her anti-voms cocktail. I did a little research of my own and it seems legit. I’d love to know what you think and if anyone has ever tried this. 

Tip 9: Hand Washing

If you’re a mom you know the hand washing pain. It’s a never-ending battle. My kids touch things that make large pieces of my soul wither. I’m constantly asking, “Did you wash your hands? Wash your hands! Here, use sanitizer!” But, the battle is worth it because the most surefire way to prevent the plague is hand washing. Especially when one of us is sick, hand washing is super important. Need help to convince the rest of the gang? Check out these great tips from Parenting.

The stomach bug is enough to strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned mommy

Tip 10: Know When to Call the Doctor

No one wants to be that mom that hauls her child into the doctor’s office for every little ailment. But especially for children, a simple stomach bug can become life threatening. The most important thing is to know when to hunker down with a bucket and when to grab the phone. 

  • Watch for dehydration. These include sunken eyes, lightheartedness, extreme thirst, dry mouth, lack of skin elasticity, peeing less, and fewer tears. 
  • Look for blood in vomit or stool.
  • Seek attention for a fever of over 100.4 degrees F in an infant, or 102.2 in an older child or adult. 
  • Pay heed to a swollen belly or pain in the lower right stomach.
  • Finally, seek treatment for vomiting that lasts more than 48 hours.