Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekly Column: Tips of the Puke-Trade

No matter how often I’ve had to clean up the mess of a tummy-troubled child, there’s been this constant refrain dancing around in my head: ‘Oh, how I wish this could be cleaned up by anyone but me.’
Being faced with an assaulting puddle of nastiness never fails to take me by surprise.  Thankfully, the past several years have helped me prepare a plan of attack for when the vomit monster strikes.  Here are a few tricks of the puke-trade that have helped me overcome the irresistible urge to run away and hide when one of my children starts losing her lunch.
Comfort the Child First
This is the easiest part.  Strip her down, lay her on a clean, dry towel across the room from ground zero, and get her comfortable.  Throwing up can be scary – make sure your child knows she’s not in trouble for getting sick, and be sure to acknowledge her fears.  Leave the puddles alone for a few minutes.  This resolves the problem of a distraught, crying child in the background of your work, while giving you a chance to gather your wits about you.  You’ll need them when you face last night’s undigested dinner seeping into your carpet.

Start Laundry Immediately
The longer the mess sits on clothes or sheets, the nastier it becomes, in my queasy opinion.  Pick up the solid bits with paper napkins and flush it down the toilet before tossing everything else into the washer immediately.  Even if it’s the middle of the night.  If you can get a beloved blankie or stuffed animal washed and dried before the next episode erupts, you’ll have something of comfort to offer your sick child in the midst of a difficult time.  Plus, it’ll be less of a giant pile to tackle in the morning. 

Once is Never Enough
The first mess of the night is probably not the last, in midnight sicknesses.  Once you’ve gotten your little one cleaned up, plan ahead for the next occurrence.  If a second or third episode never materializes, you’re still better safe than sorry.  Lay towels across the pillows and sheets of the bed.  Put your child in easy-to-remove pajamas: button-up tops are lifesavers during post-vomit cleanup.  Remove all stuffed animals or unnecessary blankets from the danger zone. They’ll just be one more thing to wash later.

Don’t Force Hydration
While you definitely don’t want your child to become dehydrated, it might be a fruitless venture to feed her large gulps of water right after she’s thrown up the entire contents of her stomach.  Give small, frequent sips to avoid her spitting everything out again, and save whole glasses of liquids for when you know she’ll be able to keep it down. 

Don’t Force Food
Bottom line: if she doesn’t want to eat, don’t even try to make her.  She’ll know when she feels up to eating again, at which point it’s okay to offer her simple foods.  Just don’t be surprised if she vomits again after only half a banana and some bites of toast.  Try feeding her on one of your trusty, much-abused towels, and your bases will be covered. 

Cleaning up after a stomach-bug makes its way through our home is definitely still high on the list of my least favorite things about parenting.  It’s made me appreciate my own mother in a whole new light, and taught me a few things about my personality that I didn’t yet know.

For example, I can be strong and capable in the face of vomit.  Especially if my husband is the one doing the heavy scrubbing.


  1. This is my deepest of parenting woes -- I am NOT the puke parent. I cannotcannotcannot deal with puke. I'm always a magnet for cleaning the mess, leaving the poor kids crying next to it becuase if I smell it, I will puke, too. And then we are all out of commission. I will try to take these tips into account, though. I need them, apparently.

  2. These are great tips! My oldest daughter just had the stomach flu last week, and her little tummy is still recovering. It's so sad when your little ones are so sick!

  3. Great parenting advice! Down and dirty and helpful and...yuck.

  4. Oh, I am SO the puke-and-poop-and-everything-gross cleaner in my house! I married a man with the weakest stomach in the universe, and if he even HEARS about a gross mess, he gets an attack of queasiness. Which means that unless I'm suffering from acute morning sickness, I automatically have to clean up every gross mess. Fun!

  5. i got to use this first hand this week. Tess leaned over and puked unexpectedly all over me in the middle of the night! And yes, laundry must be done immediately!


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