How To Not Barf

The norovirus and various other lesser but still debilitating stomach-oriented bugs are making the spring rounds—”Rhode Island Wedding Results in 74 Norovirus Victims“!—including possibly around the edges of our office. I recently missed four days of work—really my first stretch of sick time in five years. I did, basically, think that I was going to die. There were some dark nights of solemn contemplation of life, and if it was worth living. I also got a great head start on my swimsuit season weight loss, so boo-yah! Also I can eat again now.

And I did it all without barfing. I have only barfed twice in the last 25 years. (Have I just jinxed myself? Oh well, so be it.) As a very happy emetophobe, here are my secrets.

Compulsive hand-washing is the greatest thing. Do you wash your hands upon entering the office, leaving the office, entering your home, leaving your home? And whenever other opportunities present themselves? Do you never touch doors and subway poles? Congratulations, you’re way ahead of the game.



Don’t get on cruise ships. I mean, this goes without saying.


• Barfing in subway station trashcans is totally legit. People will scurry away from you, but so what? This is New York City, everyone has seen worse. Barf on the street or on a subway platform with pride!

But. Barfing on subways is not good for anyone. When I had to leave the office the other week, I had to wait for three trains, because it wasn’t till the third that there were old-school unlocked train doors between cars. No, you shouldn’t ride between the cars ever. But if you’re not sure you’re going to make it home, I suppose the least humiliating thing to do is risk your life by briefly stepping out to puke between cars. (Please don’t die though!) Your other good option is plastic deli bag. :/


• Most people tend to get home and nest in a sickbed and pass out. This is incorrect. First you have to begin treatment.



Since some mysterious conspiracy halted the production of Maalox a few years ago (why!), your answer is a multi-cocktail. GO BIG. You’d be surprised how much of this stuff you can take without poisoning yourself in a new way! (Yes, do use as directed.) Sure, the thing is, you’ll maybe feel a little better sooner if you barf. But, if you play your cards right, you actually don’t have to. This is about as good as a cocktail gets, without going to the hospital for Anzemet or Zofran. Take, rest, hydrate, repeat. You will feel like garbage. If you smoke, keep smoking through it. Honestly, weed probably helps too, I wouldn’t know.

Another pro tip: antihistamines are also used as anti-nausea drugs. Is your Pepto not cutting it? Add a Benadryl! (Let’s note again that I’m not a doctor and this is not medical advice.) Bonus to that is you’ll also pass out for four hours probably too.


Goodbye coffee, goodbye dairy, goodbye all fun things. At some point you may try to eat any of the following, one bite at a time:

* white toast with the crusts cut off.
* saltines.
* nope, that’s about it.

Plus, of course, lots of seltzer or flat water as your body dictates. (I like mine room temperature!)


• Around now, you will be tempted to barf a lot. KEEP FOCUS. Pour some Pepto into that. Listen to your body, and then DO THE OPPOSITE.




• At some point, a day or two later, you may consider rice, applesauce or bananas. You will likely have watched a LOT OF TV by then.


• Around about day three, you should have a spoonful of good yogurt or a probiotic pill. Soon after that, weak black tea, without sugar. At some point, you will start tapering off the over-the-counters.


• Suddenly, one day, you will feel like a new person. Coffee and chocolate are the two last things that can be restored to your diet. Cheese is like, the antepenultimate thing, right after things like lettuce or bran. Usually that’s five to seven days after onset of illness. By then you’ll be eating plain pasta, butter on your toast, maybe even a non-bitter fruit if you’re feeling kinda scurvy-ridden. Cream of Wheat! Never forget the joys of Cream of Wheat.

Together, we can end barfing. Let’s hold hands. And then wash them furiously in scalding water.





Photo by “abbamouse.”