Thursday, 18 October 2012

How to Clean Up Puke (by an emetophobic)

Have you heard of Emetophobia?  It is an extreme phobia of vomit/vomiting and I have it.  I've had it for a long time now - around 23 years to be exact.  And when I say 'extreme' I really do mean extreme - this is not just the normal horror that most people feel when faced with a puking child or a tummy bug, this is life controlling, severely limiting stuff.  I've coped a lot better with it for the last 8-10 years than I did before then.  I'm still a quivering, panicky wreck whenever I have to deal with it, but when I tell you that I used to starve myself so I couldn't possibly be sick and at one point couldn't even leave the house at all because of it, you'll see how far I've come.

Now.  What would be on your list of things not to do when you've got a crippling phobia of vomit?  Training as an early years teacher is probably up there, right?  Because you're sensible. I, however, am not sensible and did exactly that in my mid 20s.  Hurling a-plenty.  Awful.  Not the job; the hurling.  My several years of working in schools and with small children has taught me some helpful tips for dealing with pukey scenarios though, and it's only fair to share, so here's my vom attack list.  Do not read on a full stomach:

You will need:
Two buckets (one for vomit catching, another for vomit cleaning)
Febreeze.  no other air freshener will do.
A metric fuck-tonne of kitchen roll.
Disinfectant a-plenty
Disinfectant wipes (we're not saving the planet here people, we're cleaning up puke)
Bicarbonate of Soda: Lots
A dust mask that covers your mouth and nose if you're like me and are pathetic (find them in B&Q)
And (drumroll) - my secret weapons - lots of sand and an old cereal packet or similar.

Plan of action:
1. ALERT! ALERT! SPRAY THE FEBREEZE, I REPEAT, SPRAY THE FEBREEZE.  Spray it so much that you're all choking on the scent of 'fresh linen' for the next 3 days. Also, open every window in the vicinity.

2. Stick puke bucket under child.  Mad person tip: put on dust mask now to reduce germ and vomit scent inhalation.

3. Assess situation.

4. If the puke has occurred on carpet, a) WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Have I taught you nothing? Rip all carpets up and cover entire floor of house in laminate flooring or PVC or something.  Carpets and small children = disaster.  b) You're going to have to go straight in with the kitchen roll to mop up and pick up chunks (bleughh), then clean it all up with soapy water before going over it with disinfectant in water.  Sprinkle liberally with bicarb and leave to dry.

5. If the puke has occurred on a solid surface like vinyl or laminate flooring or a table, you're going to make like a school caretaker and go in with the sand.  (Hum the Mission Impossible music here).  Sprinkle handfuls of sand all over the area of pukage. Be liberal with your sand.  You can't possibly use too much.  This will turn it into a solidified mass (heave) which you can then use your old cereal packet to scrape up and dispose of.  Any cardboard will do actually - you just need a bit to scrape with and a bit to scrape onto.  This negates the need to deal with any 'bits' and you can go straight in with the disinfectant and water before bicarbing the area like a mo-fo.

6. Getting rid of the bicarb once the area is dry is a problem.  Hoover it up, but this makes me obsess horribly about germs being in the hoover.  I end up using yet more disinfectant to wipe it down inside and out and chucking the hoover bag away.

7. Turn attention to child.  Plonk in empty bath and remove clothes.  Put clothes in washing machine to boil wash.  Hose down child with plenty of soap and water.  Dry.  Re-clothe.  Surround with towels.

8. If you're me, scrub self raw whilst sobbing and shaking, followed by disinfecting every single door handle, centimetre of floor etc etc.  Hopefully you're normal - if so, don't bother with step 8.

TOP TIP:  One of the schools I worked at gave children shallow bowls to vomit into, which they kept ready-lined with paper towels.  The shallow depth resulted in less splashback and the paper towels meant that the whole lot slid nicely down the toilet and left the bowl more or less clean, which meant that it just needed filling with water and bleach and leaving to stand rather than a traumatic amount of rinsing out and emptying.

There you go - hopefully that helps.  And if you're wondering how I can possibly be as phobic as I say I am after reading all of that, then believe me - last time my husband vomited in the toilet when he had a tummy bug, I had such a bad panic attack that I lost all feeling in my hands and face for 12 hours.  If you're like me, all you can really do is prepare yourself, think of a strategy and try and block it out while you're dealing with it.  And only have a child with someone who doesn't mind dealing with it - that's helped on most of the occasions.

Linking up here:  Have a look for more tips for cleaning up unpleasant bodily emissions.


  1. Haha, this post made me chuckle! Although, I'm really bad around puke myself...I end up with my head down the loo, so hubby always cleans up after the kids. I'm lucky he does, because on the rare occasion he hasnt been around when they puke I'm an absolute nightmare, lol! x

    1. I dread the day mine chucks up when my husband's at work.

  2. Fab post love it - just two extra tips in case above happens in someone else's car or a taxi:

    A) Sit down and cry!
    B) Run a mile and deny all knowledge of small child covered head to foot in pewk!

    1. Oh God. Even the THOUGHT of this makes me shake!

  3. Lisa! As a fellow emetaphobe (since I was 4, I am now 40) I have to say thank you thank you thank you for this! Although it's likely to be not very useful for me as when my girls are ill I run away...

    1. Hurrah! Another one of me! Although not hurrah for you having such a nasty phobia - it really is hard isn't it? I tend to run too. I remember my brother being sick in the bathroom when I was in my teens and I ran straight into the patio doors in my panic as I was so desperate to get out of the house.

  4. I would think clumping cat litter would be a better absorbant than sand. It also has deodorizers to deal with the urine/fecal smell from a cat's deposits.

    I too freak about the vomit issue. We have five cats, and oddly the vomit (which is very frequent) doen't bother me at all. There is something different going on in my brain about human vomit. Seeing the stuff laying somewhere doesn't get to me as much as hearing the gagging and seeing the spew and the potential stench.

    My wife couldn't have kids (fortunate for my phobia) and I don't know how many parents get through it. I marvel at how nurses deal with this. I wonder if hypnosis has any effect on this phobia?

    I saw a clip on youtube of a kid in a choir suddenly spewing what seemed like an enormous quantity. I wondered if repeated viewings could get me used to the sight...not!

  5. Same as me. I physically can not throw up due to my phobia and tried almost everything to cure it.
    It hasn't worked.
    My technique for stomach bugs?
    Child is sick
    Run whimpering into different room
    Call mother/friend/husband
    Wait in other room talking calming words to child through a door
    Once vomit patrol has arrived, run out of house whimpering and only return when I get a call everything is fine.

    Yeah it's crap parenting but when it comes to sick I'm done. Thank god my children have never been sickly, only the odd tummy bug.

    1. That's my technique too. With impeccable timing, Rory came down with a bug yesterday morning and has been sick 6 times since then. Thank God it was a Sunday and Rich was home. I'm forseeing more vom today and am a nervous wreck.

  6. Oh God, I can't imagine having that kind of phobia! My neighbour has it funnily enough (not funny for you emetophobes obviously!) I'm on standby just in case her son is ill. My two thankfully weren't 'sickie' babies but both has projectile vommed in our car. Vile with or without phobia!!

  7. Aww I feel so guilty for laughing! But... excellent advice. I have tried all the main shop-bought products before but just never really managed to get rid of the stains and/or odour. I was actually using professional companies to be honest. I searched for carpet cleaner birmingham and carpet cleaner sutton coldfield, and was quite pleased with the results so can recommend that if you want to get rid of the hassle of doing it, but of course many people prefer to do it themselves these days, so articles like this are priceless. Thanks for the great post!

  8. Hi guys, brilliant post thank you! I have been doing a ton of chemical free clening the last few weeks and shall continue towards Christmas. We have metres and metres of carpet though so we usually get in carpet cleaner solihull who do an amazing job, but we have moved to Newcastle - can anyone please suggest a carpet cleaner?! But I will definitely take the tips away from this post for the bits we can manage on our own. Thanks again :D Yvonne xox