Norovirus is a type of gastroenteritis. It is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK. It is sometimes called the winter vomiting bug because it is more common in winter. However, you can catch norovirus in all seasons. 25 different strains are known to affect humans.
What are the symptoms?
Norovirus has very distinctive symptoms, which can include suddenly feeling sick, headaches, projectile vomiting and watery diarrhoea. Some patients also have aching limbs, stomach cramps or a slight fever. Symptoms appear around one to two days after infection and generally last for up to two or three days.
What should I do if I have norovirus?
If you experience a sudden onset of diarrhoea and vomiting, it is generally best to stay at home until the condition improves. You can take steps to help ease the symptoms whilst you have norovirus.
- Make sure you avoid getting dehydrated by continuing to drink plenty of fluids. You will need to drink more than usual as you lose fluids when vomiting and when you have diarrhoea.
- Take paracetamol to ease the symptoms of aches and pains, or a slight fever.
- Make sure to rest.
- If you feel like eating, try plain foods, such as soup, pasta, bread and rice.
- If you are showing signs of dehydration, use special rehydration drinks.
- Talk to your pharmacist or GP about anti-diarrhoeal or anti-emetic medication. These are not suitable for everyone so you should make sure to seek advice and carefully read the medication leaflet.
- Wash your hands regularly whilst you are ill as norovirus spreads very easily. In order to reduce the risk of passing on norovirus, stay off work or school at least 48 hours after your symptoms have cleared.
It is important to know when to get medical advice and you can find out more about this from NHS Choices. If your child is affected, you can also find out more about looking after a sick child from NHS Choices.
If you are travelling, Fit For Travel has published information on norovirus and recommendations for travellers which may be useful.
How can I prevent norovirus?
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid norovirus, but you can take steps to help stop the virus spreading.
- Stay off work and school for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped. It is also important to avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this period.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the toilet and before you prepare food. Use soap and water rather than rely on alcohol hand gels. Public Health England emphasises the importance of good hand hygiene in stopping the virus from spreading.
- Make sure you disinfect any surfaces or other objects that might have become contaminated.
- Wash any clothing or bedding which may have become contaminated. These should be washed separately on a hot wash to ensure the virus is killed.
- Don’t share towels or flannels.
- Flush away any infected poo or vomit and clean the area surrounding the toilet.
- Avoid eating raw or unwashed produce.
- Only eat oysters from a reliable source because oysters can carry norovirus.
For more information and tips on dealing with norovirus, have a listen to our pharmacist Ian Findlay chatting to Hiblio.TV about norovirus.