Norovirus is the most common stomach bug in the UK. Infection can happen at any time of the year but is more common during the colder months – which is why it is often referred to as the winter vomiting bug.
Norovirus infection can occur at any age and, because the body cannot maintain immunity to the virus for a long time, you can get norovirus infection more than once. If you’re the parent of a young child, you are probably well aware!
Norovirus usually causes upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhoea. Other symptoms may include a fever, headache and aching limbs. The symptoms tend to be mild and people normally recover within two or three days. The most important thing to do is ensure your child has plenty to drink. This will help replace the fluids lost from their body through diarrhoea and vomiting and therefore prevent them from becoming dehydrated. Products such as Dioralyte may be beneficial as they also replace salt loss and help water to be absorbed more easily from the gut. Allow your child to eat food as soon as they feel able – begin with plain foods that are easily digested e.g. wholemeal toast.
Norovirus is very easily spread from one person to another by close contact and it is not uncommon to see outbreaks of the infection in hospitals, schools etc. Children can be the perfect hosts as they gather in large numbers at school, playgrounds etc.; they play together in close quarters and they don’t always wash their hands as thoroughly as we would hope.
Good hygiene is the key to lowering your risk of getting infected by norovirus and to prevent its spread to others. Regular handwashing with soap and water is the most important thing you and your child can do. Do not share towels and flannels. Wash separately any clothing or bedding that may be contaminated.
If you develop norovirus avoid contact with others – this may include staying off work or school for up to 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting.
Richard Dunn is a community pharmacist with Gordons Chemists.
Products described are available at most pharmacies and Gordons Chemists does not endorse any individual product. Always consult your pharmacist in relation to your individual symptoms.