Understanding Norovirus

Thursday, December 05, 2019

You might have heard this called the winter vomiting bug as around this time of year Norovirus is extremely common. With most of us staying in to avoid the cold, this stomach bug is passed around from person-to-person so unfortunately, unless you live alone, there’s a chance you might pass it onto your family members.

But what can we do to help reduce the chances of getting it and what do we do once we have actually got it?

How can you catch it?

Norovirus is so notorious because it spreads incredibly effectively, passing via food, hands and even surfaces. It also has a 24-hour incubation period, which means that if you catch it, it will take around 24 hours for the symptoms to set in.

While there is no set way to avoid it, you can take precautions:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly - particularly after going outside or entering any public places. If you also use public transport then be sure to wash your hands once you’re home or at work
  • Ensure your food is properly washed before cooking or eating it
  • Don’t share towels or flannels with anyone else
  • Make sure to keep your work surfaces clean

Normal alcohol hand sanitisers won't be enough to kill the bug, but they can help to reduce the chances of infection if you can't wash your hands.

Symptoms of Norovirus

While it is more common in winter, norovirus can be contracted at any time of the year. The illness usually starts with a sudden onset of diarrhoea and severe projectile vomiting, which can continue in waves for up to 48 hours - although -many cases are over within about 24 hours.

Stomach cramps, fluctuations in temperature and drowsiness are also common symptoms; both as a result of the body attacking the virus and the exertion of forceful vomiting.

There are no long-term effects from Norovirus, even in pregnant women, children and the elderly. If you require medical advice, you should telephone your GP's office rather than going in, to avoid spreading the virus further.

How do you treat it?

Norovirus can't be treated, but there are certain steps you can take to regain control over your condition and make the experience less uncomfortable.

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is very important, and you should sip water even if you're bringing it back up again. As well as providing the body with water that you’re losing through vomiting and diarrhoea, you're also giving your stomach something to process while it is empty; making it less painful than vomiting on an empty stomach.


Try to stay rested as much as possible, and if you can manage it try to eat easily-digestible soft foods like bread.

After the illness has passed you stomach should be back to normal, but you will probably feel a little washed out for a few days, so make sure you rest while the infection clears your system.

Avoid being around others

An infected person can still pass it on to other people before it has even been detected. The illness itself lasts between 24-48 hours, and once the symptoms have subsided, you may still be contagious for another 72 hours, so it's a good idea to avoid a trip to the doctor as you may risk passing the illness on.

If your symptoms carry on for longer than two or three days then seek medical advice, especially if you already have a serious illness. More information can be found over on the NHS’ website.

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