5 Ways to Avoid the Stomach Flu

Wash HandsWash HandsThe biggest topic of conversation around my boys' elementary school is who is sick and how sick. Norovirus, a gnarly stomach flu that causes vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps, has hit much of the country. This year, a new strain first identified in Austrialia, could be to blame. The symptoms aren't subtle. You feel fine one minute and the next it's like a scene from The Exorcist. I talked with UCLA Pediatrician and Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Lynn Ramirez, about what you can do to avoid the illness (or not spread it once you have it) that generally strikes between December and April. Here are 5 things I found out:

1. Wash hands often
This seems obvious, but poor hand washing can result in the virus being spread when you shake hands, touch a counter, or prepare food. Ideally, you want to use soap and water and rub your hands together with soap for at least 20 seconds.

Related: 21 immunity-boosting recipes for flu season

2. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly
After you've washed your hands, wash fruits and vegetables well so you don't pass on a virus from possible contaminated food.

3. Be careful changing diapers
If a baby has loose stool or has been vomiting, make sure and clean the area thoroughly after changing diapers and wash hands with soap and water instead of using antibacterial hand gel. Washing hands is the best way to avoid passing the virus.

4. Clean surfaces well
I'm as natural as can be and don't like to use harsh chemicals in my house, but in this case I'm making an exception. Ramirez recommends cleaning surfaces with bleach to kill the virus. Norovirus is hearty and can live on a countertop for more than week.

5. Keep a sick child home
If a child has a vomiting illness or diarrhea, keep them out of daycare or school for 24 after the symptoms are gone. If the child is in diapers, it's 2 days.

- By Yvonne Condes
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