Norovirus: The winter vomiting bug
Our GP's at London Doctors Clinic are used to seeing people with tummy upset, and are more than capable of advising patients with gastrointestinal conditions such as Norovirus. This nasty virus is a common cause of vomiting and diarrhoea and affect people of any age. Fortunately, Norovirus usually self-resolves, although there are plenty of tips for reducing the unpleasant symptoms in the meantime!
What are the symptoms of norovirus?
The virus affects the gastrointestinal system, so produces symptoms of gastroenteritis. The symptoms of Norovirus include:
- Suddenly feeling sick
- Projective vomiting
- Watery diarrhoea
You may also experience a slight fever, a headache, tummy pain and aches and pains in your limbs. Norovirus symptoms usually starts a couple of days after you catch the virus, and should resolve by itself after 2 to 3 days.
Unfortunately, Norovirus like many other viruses can mutate (change). This means you can catch it again and your body cannot develop long term resistance to it, like it can with other illnesses such as Chickenpox.
How do people catch Norovirus?
Norovirus spreads easily in schools, workplaces, hospitals and nursing homes, where lots of people are in close contact. You can catch Norovirus through:
- Close contact with someone infected with Norovirus
- The infected person may breathe out particles containing the virus that you then breathe in
- Touching contaminated surfaces/objects
- The Norovirus can live outside the body for several days
- Eating contaminated food
- This tends to happen if a person with the virus does not wash their hands before handling food
Cruise ships are notoriously bad places for outbreaks of Norovirus, due to the high volume of people living in close quarters
Like many viral infections, there is no specific treatment or cure that is effective for Norovirus: antibiotics will not help. The symptoms should pass by themselves as your body fights the infection.
If you have diarrhoea and vomiting, it is advisable to stay at home and rest until the symptoms subside. Norovirus is highly contagious so staying home will also reduce the risk of others becoming unwell.
You can reduce the symptoms of Norovirus in the following ways:
- Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids:
- Drink more than usual to replace the fluids you have lost through diarrhoea and vomiting
- Although water is best, fruit juice and soup can also help reduce dehydration
- Children should avoid fizzy drinks or fruit juice as it can worsen diarrhoea
- Take paracetamol to alleviate aches and pains
- Eating plain foods if you feel up to it
- Such as soup, rice, pasta, bread
- Taking rehydration solution
- These can be purchased from a pharmacy and come in a range of flavours
- These may be particularly helpful if you have symptoms of dehydration such as dry mouth or dark urine
Children under the age of 1 are at a much greater risk of dehydration especially following diarrhoea and vomiting so if your child is unwell, make sure keep to a close eye on their fluid intake.
It's really important to stay hydrated when suffering from Norovirus, by drinking plenty of fluids and using Oral Rehydration Solutions
Stop the spread of Norovirus!
Remember, Norovirus is very contagious.
You can reduce the risk of spread by:
- Washing your hands regularly with soap and water
- Staying off work or school for at least 48 hours
- Disinfecting surfaces with a bleach-based cleaner
- Not sharing towels
- Flushing away infected bodily fluids and cleaning the surrounding area
- Particularly faeces and vomit
- Avoid eating raw/unwashed produce
You will be infectious from the start of your symptoms until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.
Washing hands is very important to prevent the spread of Norovirus, especially before preparing food and after going to the toilet!
When to seek medical advice with Norovirus
There are some less common situations where you may need medical advice with Norovirus. As an adult, you should seek medical help if:
- You have bloody diarrhoea
- You have a serious underlying condition such as kidney disease
- Your symptoms have not improved after a few days
- You have symptoms of severe dehydration:
- Passing small amounts of urine or no urine at all
- Reduced consciousness
If your child has Norovirus/diarrhoea and vomiting, you should seek medical help if:
- Your baby or child has passed 6 or more watery stools in 24 hours
- Your baby or child has vomited 3 times or more in 24 hours
- Your baby or child is less responsive, feverish or has pale/mottled skin
Signs of severe illness in children include being less responsive, feverish and especially pale skin: if so, you should seek medical help
Overall, although vastly unpleasant, Norovirus is usually self-limiting, meaning your body will overcome the disease by itself in a couple of days. There is no specific treatment available, although symptoms can be managed with paracetamol to relieve pain and fever, and rehydration therapies. It's still important, however, to seek medical help if you're severely unwell, such as severely dehydrated, by booking in for a same day doctor appointment at London Doctors Clinic.
Our GP's can perform a thorough medical assessment, and then facilitate any necessary tests, such as blood tests or stool sample testing, to narrow down the cause of the symptoms (Norovirus, or other bacterial causes). This will also rule out any more sinister causes, and advise on better management, to help you feel better sooner.