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What is it? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What is norovirus?

Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, can actually be caught all year round and is the most common stomach bug in the UK. It often causes diarrhoea as well as vomiting. The virus, which is very contagious, can affect people of all ages and, although symptoms can be severe, it's not generally dangerous. If you catch it while you're pregnant, there's no need to worry as it's not know to damage the baby. Your main concern should be to keep well hydrated by keeping fluids up throughout the illness. Up to 1,000,000 people in the UK catch norovirus every year. It's spread by contact, either directly with other people or through touching a contaminated surface, where the virus can survive for several days. You can also catch it from contaminated food or drink. Symptoms usually only last for a few days.

What are the symptoms of Norovirus?

There is usually an incubation period of a couple of days between having contact with norovirus and symptoms beginning, but in some people they can occur sooner. Forceful vomiting and very watery diarrhoea that occurs suddenly and without warning are usually the first symptoms.

Other symptoms can include a raised temperature (of 38 °C or above); stomach pains; headache and general aches and pains.

What are the treatments and remedies of Norovirus?

Most sufferers make a full recovery within a couple of days without the need for any treatment. The main course of self-help is to ensure you drink plenty of fluids to prevent yourself from getting dehydrated. This is especially important for babies, young children and expectant mums.

If your baby has norovirus and is breastfed, offer the breast frequently to avoid dehydration. your breast milk is nutritionally complete and you do not need to give any extra fluids. If your baby is formula fed, offer extra drinks of cooled boiled water, but don't offer fruit juice or carbonated drinks to under-fives as they can make diarrhoea worse.

If you have any aches and pains, take paracetamol or ibuprofen (age-appropriate types for children) and if you are unable to eat properly, try having small, plain meals that are easily digested. Babies should continue with their normal feeds.
To avoid spreading the virus, you should stay at home unless your symptoms don't clear within a few days, after which time you should ring your GP for advice. You may be asked not to come to the surgery as norovirus is so contagious. Children should be kept away from nursery/school for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped.

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

Bounty will not be held responsible or liable for any injury, loss, damage, or illness, however this occurs or appears, after using the information given on this website and in particular the A-Z of Family Health.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net