Planning for the December bug

My birthday is in early December. Early December also plays host, annually, to a nasty bout of the stomach flu that circulates in these parts. I don’t know what it is — the changing temperatures, perhaps, and darker days that have you stuck inside more. There are Christmas parties which encourage mingling, and people travel around Thanksgiving, thus moving germs faster than they would on their own. Whatever it is, I’ve begun to think of norovirus as the universe’s little birthday gift to me.

The other night, all three kids succumbed. The 5-year-old woke up around 1:30, and came into our room to announce that he’d thrown up (“I was just having a happy dream and kersplash it came out!” he told us the next morning). We moved him to the extra bed in his little brother’s room. Then the 3-year-old woke up within the hour vomiting. He was moved to a clean spot in the guest room. Then the baby started howling around 3:30. I let her cry for a bit (she sometimes cries in her sleep and comforts herself) but she wasn’t shutting up. So I went in to find her quite in need of a diaper change. I got her cleaned up and settled and an hour later she was crying again. She needed another diaper change, this time necessitating a full-on pajama change too. Let’s just say the washing machine was running most of the day and at least one teddy bear will never be the same.

So it wasn’t an incredibly productive day. But in my sixth December of life with little ones, I’ve come to see that the stomach flu is, as Donald Rumsfeld might call it, a known unknown. Most likely, it will strike. So am I prepared to deal with it? There are ways to accommodate known unknowns. I can have back-up sitters in case a regular childcare arrangement falls through. I can build in buffer days to big projects — particularly in December — so that a loss of one isn’t tragic. In my own particular situation, I can build in open hours into a schedule that can be used to nap, or go to the doctor or pharmacy if necessary. If not necessary, I can use them for those high-value things that I probably don’t spend enough time on: marketing, brainstorming, etc.

Everyone now seems to be feeling better, with fingers crossed for better days the rest of the week. How do you prepare for known unknowns?

14 thoughts on “Planning for the December bug

  1. Out of curiosity, did you guys get the flu shot this year? This year’s flu sounds really nasty and I’m curious whether or not it’s included in the flu vaccine or if it were missed.

    1. FYI: Stomach bugs are most often something like norovirus- and not covered in the flu shots. There is in fact not much you can do to avoid norovirus beyond lots of disinfecting and handwashing. And still… it is incredibly infectious. There was, however, a really nasty flu (aches, pains, respiratory issues) that went around here about a month ago, and the flu shot seems to have protected against that.

      1. Who knew? Tell your company to get on that norovirus thing, Cloud!

        Ugh, we still need to get the family vaccinated this year. I suppose what I should do is just give up on getting it done easily for free and give the grocery store $25 per person and fail to send in the paperwork for reimbursement. Satisficing is more economical and less messy than all of us getting sick. (Though we did get vaccinated last year and I’d heard this year’s shot was similar to last year’s.) I wish the vaccine were available in August and given out at the school physical. (But I suppose school is one of the reasons the flu season starts when it does.)

        The year DC1 started daycare was also a bad flu season. Flu sucks even worse with babies.

        1. Anti-virals are HARD, because most viruses have few proteins of their own- they mostly hijack your own cells’ machinery. We need targets that are unique to the virus (or at least the disease state) to make drugs against. Also, they tend to mutate really fast, which makes it hard to find drugs that will keep working against them. This is also why you have to get a flu shot every year- the flu keeps mutating.

    2. @Nicoleandmaggie- my kids all got the flu shot, but see Cloud’s comment. Hopefully the flu shot will protect us against the respiratory/fever/achy one. Norovirus, not so much. And yes, I am thrilled to have a w/d right now.

      1. And crud… my plans to get the family (except the baby) vaccinated this weekend ground to a halt when the school called telling us to take feverish DC1 home. Now I’m at work packed with meetings and worried about the baby.
        The flu should be more respectful of the academic schedule.
        @Cloud– that stuff I knew, but it seems like you all should be able to eventually figure out some sort of magic bullet that changes everything.

  2. Yep, this is a known unknown I plan for, too. While I guess sickness could get in the way of deadlines any time of year, it’s the predictability of the stomach bugs this time of year that scare me into staying a couple of weeks ahead (and stocking my fridge with gatorade, just in case). Apparently the nasty stuff circulating down here lasts for days and days, not just 24 hours, and that strikes fear into my heart!

    I’m impressed you didn’t get it, too. I hope that holds!

    1. @Anne- I felt nauseous, but seem to be doing better now. It was hard to tease out what was illness and what was total lack of sleep due to each child waking up sick in turn. Made me glad to only have 3 as more would have only exacerbated the problem at a geometric rate!

  3. I also try to build in “Murphy’s law” days when setting deadlines. I symphathize with the annual December-bug ordeal. The rhinovirus paid me a vsit this week, as it did this time last December. So maybe next December I shouldn’t jam-pack my weekends with events but allow more time for rest.

  4. I want a waterproof mattress pad in my stocking ! such a great mom gift ! I like the idea of buffer days in projects. I have in the past tended to over shoot but one thing parenting can make you better as a worker is in this area so that you become more militant about top of the line most important projects and allowing enough time for those… would be interested to see if moms of multiple children have better immunity — or primary caregivers for that matter – fathers, daycare workers etc. my neighbor has 5 and my sense is she never gets sick when hers get sick… flu shot is state mandated here for daycare but I tend to think it isn’t necessary… sickness in this case should build immunity as we hope life builds immunity ; )

  5. Hope you are yours are on the mend, Laura!

    I prepare by having the house stocked with items we might need at 3am but don’t want to leave the house to go out and get. We’re stocked up on Pedialyte, as well as rice and applesauce should we need to start anyone on the BRAT diet. We are also never without Delsym (cough suppressant) – DD had a nasty cough for what seemed like weeks, and this was the only thing that allowed her, and us all, to sleep through the night.

    We also have many flavorful soaps and hand sanitizers around this time of year, and we make a big deal out of smelling the kids’ freshly washed hands.

    Also, we’re first in line every Sept for flu shots. They do nothing to prevent lower GI ickiness though, as others have mentioned.

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