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What you need to know about norovirus

Norovirus is often called the ‘winter vomiting bug’, although you can catch it any time of year. Norovirus actually refers to a group of viruses that cause inflammation of the lining of the stomach and large intestine – also known as, gastroenteritis. It is one of the most common winter bugs in the UK.

How you catch it

Can be passed from person to person through close proximity, touching the same objects or surface or food handled by an infected person. It has also been known to be caught from raw or undercooked oysters and raw fruits or vegetables.

How to tell if you have norovirus

Norovirus can be very unpleasant and comes on very quickly. The symptoms tend to develop one or two days after you’ve been infected and last for two or three days.

If you have norovirus, you are likely to experience three main symptoms:

  • A sudden feeling of nausea
  • Projectile vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

You may also experience other less common symptoms, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Aching limbs
  • Painful stomach cramps
  • A slight fever

What to do to if you have norovirus

Unfortunately, there is no cure for norovirus. The best thing you can do is stay home until you feel better.

If you go to the doctors, they will not be able to give you anything – antibiotics will not work for norovirus as it is a viral infection. You also risk passing the virus on to other patients.

To ease the symptoms, you can:

  • Drink plenty of fluids – more than you normally would. Vomiting and diarrhoea can lead to dehydration, so you need to make up for the loss of fluids. Lots of water, and, it’s a cliche, but soup is great too.
  • If you’re experiencing signs of dehydration, like dry mouth or dark urine, try rehydration sachets (available at most pharmacies) to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.
  • Avoid drinking fruit juice or fizzy drinks as this can actually make your diarrhoea worse and be counterproductive.
  • Stick to plain foods that are gentler on your stomach. That means good old fashioned soup again and foods such as bread, pasta and rice.
  • If you’re suffering from aches, painful stomach cramps or fever, take paracetamol to alleviate this.
  • REST, REST and more REST. The body needs some downtime to fight the infection and recover.
  • If your baby has norovirus, continue to feed them as usual, whether that’s breast milk or formula. If they’re bottle fed you can give them water in between feeds as well, but do not water down their formula.

Norovirus is highly contagious, so make sure you regularly wash your hands. It’s also wise to frequently clean the area around the toilet bowl. Try to stay home for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have cleared.

When you should see a doctor

We’ve mentioned that their is no cure for norovirus, but there are some circumstances in which you should seek medical advice. Always contact a doctor if:

  • You show serious signs of dehydration, such as reduced consciousness, passing little or no urine, or persistent dizziness.
  • You have bloody diarrhoea
  • Your symptoms haven’t shown improvement after a few days
  • You have a serious underlying condition, such as kidney disease

If it’s your child or baby that has norovirus, seek medical advice for any of the above reasons and if:

  • They have vomited three or more times, or passed six or more watery stools, in a 24 hour period.
  • They become less responsive, feverish or their skin becomes pale or mottled.

If you’re ever unsure about what to do, always seek medical advice.


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