Norovirus, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting, is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK. It’s also called the “winter vomiting bug” because it’s more common in winter, although you can catch it at any time of the year.
Norovirus can be very unpleasant but it usually clears up by itself in a few days.
You can normally look after yourself or your child at home.
Try to avoid going to your GP, as norovirus can spread to others very easily. Call your GP or NHS 111 if you’re concerned or need any advice.
Get medical advice if:
- Your baby or child has passed six or more watery stools in the past 24 hours, or has vomited three times or more in the past 24 hours
- Your baby or child is less responsive, feverish, or has pale or mottled skin
- You or your child has symptoms of severe dehydration, such as persistent dizziness, only passing small amounts of urine or no urine at all, or reduced consciousness – babies and elderly people have a greater risk of becoming dehydrated
- You have bloody diarrhoea
- Your symptoms haven’t started to improve after a few days
- You or your child have a serious underlying condition, such as kidney disease, and have diarrhoea and vomiting
- Your GP may suggest sending off a sample of your stool to a laboratory to confirm whether you have norovirus or another infection
To help ease your own or your child’s symptoms:
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. You need to drink more than usual to replace the fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea – as well as water, adults could also try fruit juice and soup. Avoid giving fizzy drinks or fruit juice to children as it can make their diarrhoea worse. Babies should continue to feed as usual, either with breast milk or other milk feeds.
- Take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.
- Get plenty of rest.
- If you feel like eating, eat plain foods, such as soup, rice, pasta and bread.
- Use special rehydration drinks made from sachets bought from pharmacies if you have signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth or dark urine.
Babies and young children, especially if they’re less than a year old, have a greater risk of becoming dehydrated. If you’re finding it difficult to keep water down because you’re vomiting, try drinking small amounts more frequently.
Infants and small children who are dehydrated shouldn’t be given large amounts of water alone as the main replacement fluid. This is because it can dilute the already low level of minerals in their body too much and lead to other problems.
Instead, they should be given diluted squash or a rehydration solution (available from pharmacies). You might find a teaspoon or syringe can be helpful for getting fluid into a young child.
Norovirus can spread very easily, so you should wash your hands regularly while you’re ill and stay off work or school until at least 48 hours
It’s not always possible to avoid getting norovirus, but following the advice below can help stop the virus spreading.
- Stay off work or school until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have passed. You should also avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this time.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food. Don’t rely on alcohol hand gels, as they do not kill the virus.
- Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated. It’s best to use a bleach-based household cleaner.
- Wash any items of clothing or bedding that could have become contaminated separately on a hot wash to ensure the virus is killed.
- Don’t share towels and flannels.
- Flush away any infected poo or vomit in the toilet and clean the surrounding area.