This post will help identify some common misperceptions around contracting and preventing the stomach virus.
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Given that flu season is upon us, I decided to write a piece on a topic that I am highly passionate about, the dreaded stomach virus. I will admit that I am a self-proclaimed, Emetophobe and have a raging fear of all things vomit to the point that I even had anxiety writing this post. That being said, my pain is your gain as this fear has driven me to spend countless hours of research on the best possible ways to avoid the stomach virus and to have everyone in your family avoid this horrible beast as well.
I have a pretty successful track record at my house. If you have kids in daycare or school it may be impossible to avoid the stomach virus completely, but understanding some common misperceptions about the stomach flu (does Clorox hand sanitizer really kill Norovirus?), etc.) , specifically Norovirus, and how it is spread and killed, will seriously increase your chances at remaining virus-free this year and every year until scientists finally figure out how to vaccinate against this beast.
Common Misperception #1 – Hand Sanitizer Does NOT Kill Stomach virus!
Does hand sanitizer kill stomach virus. The honest answer is NO!
Nothing makes me angrier than when I hear a Mom say “Wow, stomach flu is going around, so we’ve been using hand-sanitizer like crazy” SORRY, no! Research shows that alcohol-based sanitizers are absolutely useless against norovirus.
That said, hand sanitizers can still prevent colds and other illnesses, so they aren’t completely pointless, but you need to know that if you are using hand sanitizer as a means to keep stomach virus away you better get your bucket ready.
Fellow blogger and emetophobe, Dr. Annie Prior has a wonderful blog about things we can do to avoid the stomach virus and she highlights some hand sanitizers that might be more effective at killing the virus in this post, but the bottom line is that they are not proven and they can be expensive and difficult to obtain (Read, not sold on amazon).
Does Clorox Hand Sanitizing Spray Kill Norovirus?
I have tried the Clorox Hand Sanitizing Spray, which is one of the hand sanitizers proven to kill the norovirus surrogate. It’s better than nothing, but I still don’t trust it 100% as it has only been tested against the Norovirus surrogate and not the actual virus.
The best way to ensure your hands are clean of Norovirus is through very thorough handwashing. In my house, we sink “Twinkle, Twinkle” or “Happy Birthday To You” two full times and wash the backs or our hands, the front of our hands, under and around our nails, and between fingers with hot, soapy water. We then dry with clean paper towels. According to doctors, the friction of running your hands together along with soap and water is actually one of the best ways to remove norovirus particles.
Common Misperception #2- I sprayed With Some Clorox Spray/Kitchen Spray/Organic Cleaner/ Used Disinfecting Wipes, So We Are Safe.
WRONG! You are doomed. Sorry to be so blunt, but this misperception is one of the main reasons that so many schools and families spread norovirus unknowingly. Only two products available on the market actually kill norovirus. One is bleach and the other is Clorox Healthcare Spray.
This is not to be confused with other Clorox household cleaners such as Clorox Clean-Up or Clorox Disinfecting Spray.
ONLY the Clorox Healthcare Spray in the white bottle with green print kills norovirus. It is typically not sold in stores, but you can get it on Amazon here and if you want to avoid stomach virus you will pick it up by the gallon!
Clorox Healthcare Spray/Clorox Healthcare Wipes – Clorox Healthcare Spray and Wipes are designed for use in healthcare settings like hospitals and nursing homes, but they are the only products on the market outside of chlorine bleach that have been proven to kill norovirus. They must be used properly to be effective (solution needs to sit on surfaces for five minutes). That said, it is safe on carpets and fabric couches, etc.
Clorox Bleach – Straight Clorox Bleach also kills norovirus. To kill norovirus, use ½ cup of Clorox with one gallon of water and leave on surfaces for at least five minutes. Additional tips from Clorox here.
Common Misperception #3 – My Family Had the Stomach Virus last week, but we are Healthy Now and It’s Safe to Have a Party/Birthday Party/Playdate at our House
WRONG! You are about to spread infectious stomach virus germs to every single person who enters your home. Norovirus is exceptionally easy to catch and extremely difficult to kill. The germs can actively survive for two to three weeks on counters, floors, doorknobs, light switches, elevator buttons, the list goes on and on.
A close friend’s family announced on Facebook that they were recovering from the stomach virus on a Tuesday and her son’s birthday party was scheduled for Friday. Being the emetophobe that I am, I decided that we would not attend and instead put the present in the mail. That friend called me the following week and said that every person who entered her home for her son’s birthday party on Friday was now sick in bed with the stomach virus.
This friend is not an inconsiderate person by any means, she was just uninformed about how the stomach virus spreads and unfortunately sickened a lot of other people who then sickened their own friends and families. When we know of a stomach virus circulating around a home, we try to avoid visiting those friends for about 3 weeks. If more people understood how this virus is spread, we could collectively do a lot more to stop it from spreading and protect our friends and families.
Common Misperception #4- You are no Longer Contagious Once you are Feeling Better
This is unfortunately not true. While it’s great to feel better, Norovirus germs can remain in the stool of infected people for up to two weeks. For most adults who have proper bathroom hygiene, this is not a big deal. We wash our hands thoroughly and move on, but for parents of small children who don’t know how to wash their hands or are still in diapers, it’s a different story.
Take changing tables for example, if someone’s baby had a stomach virus a week ago and Mom or Dad changes them on a public changing table there is a very high chance that the next baby that lays on that table will not be able to avoid the stomach virus. This brings me to the next point.
Common Misperception #5 – No One Sneezed On Me, so I am in the Clear.
Wrong again. Let’s talk about how Norovirus is spread. According to the CDC, “Norovirus is spread by getting tiny particles of poop or vomit from an infected person in your mouth” This may sound odd, but it is actually way easier than it would seem.
For example, if you are out to dinner and an infected person uses the restroom and does not wash their hands properly and grabs the doorknob to leave and then a few minutes later, you grab the doorknob and then go back to your table and eat some tortilla chips, you probably just gave yourself the stomach virus. Not ideal. The best way to avoid this is proper handwashing and hygiene and always using a clean paper towel to open bathroom doors in public restrooms.
Hopefully, that clears up some common misperceptions and confusing points about stomach virus and I will leave you with some top tips to help avoid contracting norovirus this winter.
Five Tips to Avoid The Stomach Virus This Year
1. Wash your hands (and your kid’s hands) again and again and again and again, especially before mealtimes and after activities at crowded places (school, playgrounds, theme parks, the library, etc.) Wash for at least 60 seconds with soap and hot water and rub vigorously. Do not rely on hand sanitizer to kill stomach virus. Washing your hands regularly and relentlessly before meals is the single best way to avoid the stomach virus.
2. Understand which household products actually kill norovirus. Buy a bottle of Clorox Healthcare Spray or Clorox Healthcare Wipes to have on hand for air travel and other public places. Consider asking your child’s school/daycare if you can donate a few bottles of Clorox Healthcare Spray ahead of flu season.
3. Keep your kids and yourself away from the homes of folks who are battling the stomach virus and steer clear for at least two to three weeks after they are recovered.
4. Be vigilant when in public places and use paper towels to open public restroom doors. Try not to let your children put their hands in their mouths until they have been washed thoroughly.
5. Implement a “no shoe” rule for the winter. No one is allowed to enter my house without taking their shoes off. My 2-year old still eats food off the floor and it’s not worth the risk of having someone track in norovirus or other, more serious germs.
Any other tips you have learned to help prevent the spread of norovirus? Feel free to reach out!