I Am #Fearless, Love & Life, Mental Illness
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The Holidays Are Here Again…and so is the Norovirus

This is literally my favorite time of year for two reasons: Christmas Day and Christmas music. Sure, Thanksgiving is an awesome holiday, but my track record with Thanksgivings aren’t the best. Regardless, there is one thing that always makes the holiday season and the colder months that follow difficult for me and other emets: norovirus.

This bug IS a worse case scenario; a worse-than-death fate. It is the epitome of emetophobia and everything this phobia stands for. I think many emets would tell you they would rather die than ever be in a place where they get the virus or are succumbed to dealing with someone who has or has had the virus.

As someone who has encountered this virus multiple times (thankfully, no personal afflictions – knock on wood [and yes, I did just knock on wood three times]), I’ve seen just how debilitating this virus can be, and it reaffirms why I hope to goodness I never have to experience something like that – phobia or not.

But I think there are a lot of things that we don’t know about this virus, and even though it might be hard to read this I encourage you to keep reading. I hope to lay out some facts, as well as do’s and don’ts this holiday season when it comes to keeping yourself healthy. My facts are condensed from the CDC webpage on norovirus, which you can find here.

So, it should go without saying that the norovirus is a gastrointestinal virus, meaning it affects the stomach and colon. People who get this virus usually are sick for 24-48 hours with what I’m calling extreme vomiting and terrible diarrhea, and even after the plague finishes it’s course, there are still several days of recovery coming to help you replenish your energy and strength.

The way you can get the norovirus is by eating or drinking something contaminated with the norovirus, touching something that has the norovirus on it and then putting your hands in your mouth or having direct contact with someone who has it by sharing a drink, food or swapping other bodily fluids (ew).

The good news is, people with norovirus are not contagious until they start showing symptoms, meaning the moment the nauseous feeling hits they will spread the bug. Until that moment, though, they cannot spread it. Of course, I doubt many people who have it know they have it until they start to feel bad. But you can take solace in knowing that if you drink after someone this winter who is healthy and then the next day doesn’t come to work with the bug, you are safe.

That’s the hardest part of this article, writing out the symptoms. Now, I get to tell you all about how to keep yourself healthy, and if someone in your house does end up with the virus how you can clean and protect everyone else.

Obviously, always wash your hands after using the restroom (public or in your own home) before preparing food, touching your face, or handling the young or elderly. If you are sick, avoid preparing food for people and do not invite people over. Even after your symptoms are gone, some people can be contagious for up to 10 days. That being said though, if you wash your hands, don’t eat or drink after them, you should be fine. If you HAVE to handle someone who is sick, be sure to use rubber gloves to clean, a bleach based disinfectant to sanitize, and to wash your hands for at least 45 seconds (or singing happy birthday at a normal pace twice) with warm water and soap. They also recommend washing the affected sheets and linens for the maximum length cycle, and to then dry them. I’ve heard that even that may not do the trick, but, it is very important to still wash your sheets after they have been soiled. 1/2 cup of bleach on the hot water setting will do as much as your washer can to keep your clothes clean. I honestly think I would probably just throw out the sheets and clothes, but that might get pricey after a while haha

Someone in my support group shared this post on tips to keep yourself healthy this season, and I do think it has a lot of great things to keep in mind when it comes to keeping your house clean. If you’d like to take a read over that, you may click here.

Something important to keep in mind though, it is very hard to make something sterile. Doctors and hospitals have gone to great lengths to ensure their tools are germ free when they start a procedure, and it works for them because they have the availability and funds to do so. We, on the other hand, do not have that ability readily available, but we can do as much as possible to keep our surfaces sanitized. If you get a great cleaner, make sure you sanitize surfaces thoroughly to ensure the virus is killed.

For me, the norovirus is a terrifying thought. It’s the one part of my phobia that I think will be the hardest thing to break, and I hope to goodness that in my lifetime I never have to personally experience this terrible virus (yes, I did just knock on wood again). However, all my life I’ve been extremely fortunate, and I know as long as I continue to wash my hands after being out, using the restroom and prior to eating food I’m doing the best I can to keep myself safe.

The last thing I can tell you is when it comes to social media, do not let it scare you. Although the virus is in your area, knowing about the virus does not mean you will get it. I spent the first 18 years of my life never knowing that “norovirus” existed, just stomach bugs. Once I learned of this, my anxiety about it went on overdrive, but it hit me a couple years later that just because I now knew what it was didn’t make me anymore (or less) susceptible to this virus than previous years. It just meant that now I knew of this, and I could use that knowledge to help protect myself better.

That doesn’t mean I still don’t worry about it – because I do. As I said, this is the one part of my phobia that still really gives me the heebie-jeebies. In fact, writing this article was a little tough for me, but I powered through because I know it’s just words.

Do you have any tips on how to keep yourself healthy this year? If you’ve experienced the virus first hand, how did you manage your anxiety and keep yourself above the water? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time, Internet!

If you would like to email me, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to contact@hashtagfearless.com. I will do my best to respond to you within 48 hours, but if for some reason I cannot get back to you in that time frame, I promise I will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find me on  FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram

Lastly, I run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle I am passionately engaged in. The group is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.

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