Expert / 7 November, 2017 / Dr Anshumen Bhagat

The Doctor’s Guide to Norovirus: The Facts You Need To Know This Winter

This article arrived on our desk this morning and couldn’t be more timely. My Baba’s Editor Ellie has been hospitalised this weekend due to the dreaded norovirus and due to her early stages of pregnancy, was kept in on a drip. She’s back home today, but, and I quote, she’s feeling like she’s been hit by a trunk, so it seems like there is no better time to share this article. Our GPDQ doctor’s guide tells you everything you need to know.

As the poor staff and customers of Wahaca have so dramatically announced, norovirus season is upon us. But what is norovirus and what do you need to be aware of if your child (or anyone in the family, for that matter) catches it?

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 your child has norovirus

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

If you take your child 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:

  • Give them 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 seeing signs of dehydration, like dry mouth or dark urine, try rehydration sachets (available at most pharmacies) to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.
  • Avoid giving them fruit juice or fizzy drinks as this can actually make their diarrhoea worse and be counterproductive.
  • Stick to plain foods that are gentler on their stomach. That means good old fashioned soup again and foods such as bread, pasta and rice.
  • For babies, 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.
  • If they are suffering from aches, painful stomach cramps or fever, you can give them paracetamol to alleviate this.
  • REST, REST and more REST. The body needs some downtime to fight the infection and recover.

Norovirus is highly contagious, so to avoid the whole family getting sick make sure they regularly wash their hands. It’s also wise to frequently clean the area around the toilet bowl. Keep them off school for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have cleared.

When you should see a doctor

I’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:

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

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

Dr Anshumen Bhagat

Dr Bhagat is a GP with 15 years experience, a principle in a North London medical centre and the Chief Medical Officer and Founder of GPDQ, the UK’s first on-demand app for GP home visits.

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