When That Nasty Stomach Bug Invades Your Home: A Germaphobe's Guide

I peed in my backyard at 3:00 a.m. in order to avoid the bathroom while my boyfriend was sick.

Mar 5, 2013 at 2:00pm | Leave a comment

Is it just me, or is everyone sick with something right now? All of February was shrouded in sickness -- I honestly have no idea where that month even went. First it was like I couldn’t get away from people with the flu, then I was hit hard with a head cold, followed by an extreme allergic reaction to some new skin care products (seriously, the entire left side of my face was swollen, and I had a nasty looking rash, and now I’m having a weird eczema break-out around my lips).

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The artist as a germ-paranoid bleachfreak.

AND THEN Jeff was taken ill with that horrible stomach bug -- you know, the one that hits hard and fast, firing guns from both ends of the ship, if you catch my drift. 

Nothing sends me into panic germaphobe mode like a stomach illness. I can handle being near someone with influenza or a cold, but anything involving vomit is another story. I may have written about my emetophobia here before. Mine is pretty mild compared to some people, but it’s bad enough that it’s sometimes difficult to take care of my kid when he gets sick.

So the minute we realized Jeff was sick, I freaked the eff out -- silently of course, so as not to let on how freaked out I am by something so simple as vomit, and also not to make Jeff feel worse than he already did. Luckily, I have a lot of practice with stomach ickiness because of my kid, and I have a plan that I follow when it happens.

Are you a germaphobe or emetophobe? Terrified of catching the “stomach flu” (which, by the way, is not the flu at all, so a flu shot will not prevent it -- this may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people think this)?

Here’s what I do when a nasty stomach illness hits my home, from one germaphobe to another:

1). Quarantine the infected individual.

In Jeff’s case, I got-TFO of the bedroom and slept on the couch, and I just let him have the whole back of the house. I also forbade him from entering the kitchen. Anything he needed, I retrieved for him. And I avoided our lone bathroom at all costs. In classic xoJane overshare form, now you know that I peed in my backyard at 3:00 a.m. just so I wouldn’t have to go into the biohazard area.

2). Sanitize the ever-loving crap out of everything at the first sign of illness.

I’m talking doorknobs, light switches, etc. I also handed Jeff a container of bleach wipes through a crack in the bathroom door so that he could clean the toilet and sink after every bathroom visit. (There is more bathroom sanitizing later, after the active sickness phase is done).

3). Clean the kitchen with bleach.

Since Jeff had touched a bunch of stuff in the kitchen right before he felt sick, I scrubbed EVERYTHING down with bleach. I also re-washed the dishes that he had washed by hand earlier in the evening, since we don’t have a dishwasher.

4). Handwashing is key.

I washed my hands anytime I had to touch something he may have touched, and before touching anything in the kitchen or eating any food. I avoided touching my face. Jeff also was really diligent about washing his hands, and we used separate hand towels. (You might be surprised to know that I am totally anti-anti-bacterial handsoap and anti-hand-sanitizer -- we just use regular liquid soap.)

5). Use a new toothbrush and separate toothpaste.

I went to the store and grabbed myself a new tube of toothpaste, and opened a new toothbrush, since my old toothbrush may have been contaminated with germsssss.

6). Use disposables.

I like to be environmentally friendly, but I will do anything -- anything -- not to throw up. And that includes destroying the environment. Sorry, trees, Sorry, nature. I used plastic utensils and cups, and paper plates for several days, along with a lot of paper towels.

7). Wash linens and towels in hot, hot, hot water.

Same goes with dishes.

8). Re-sanitize the bathroom, kitchen, doorknobs and any other frequently-touched areas after the infected person starts to feel better.

I went into the bathroom/hazard area wearing gloves and a mask and sprayed every single surface down with bleach twice. 

OK, this sounds a little not sane, right? I know. But keep in mind that these stomach things are not usually airborne -- they are passed through contact, and it usually goes like this: patient zero has poo or vom germs on their hands, they touch something, then you touch the same thing and then stick your hands in your face. IT’S GROSS, OK?

Also, depending on the type of stomach thing, an infected person can be contagious for like a week after they feel well (like that horrible new strain of Norovirus). So all of the precautions outlined above? I followed them for about a week after. Which was fine, except then Jeff got used to me waiting on him because I wouldn’t let him go in the kitchen. 

This was weeks ago, and for now, everyone is well in my house. FOR NOW. 

Anyone else beset by illness recently? Do you go to the bleach-wielding lengths I described above? Or are you like a normal person?

Somer is on Twitter, pretending that icky poo germs don't even exist: @somersherwood