The norovirus, also sometimes called the winter vomiting bug, is a very common type of viral infection that causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea to set in very quickly.
While the virus usually clears up by itself after a couple of days, if you’re experiencing the above symptoms and they’ve not cleared up after three days or they’re particularly severe, don’t delay - speak to one of our doctors online right now.
Our GPS can discuss your symptoms, diagnose whether you might need any additional treatment and if needed, prescribe medication to help relieve your symptoms.
What causes the norovirus?
Noroviruses are a type of viral infection that cause inflammation in the stomach, digestive system and other parts of the digestive system.
Noroviruses are often confused with food poisoning, since the viruses that cause them can be transmitted through food. However, they can also be passed on in a variety of ways that don’t involve food.
You get the norovirus by coming into contact with something that’s been contaminated by the viruses that cause the infection.
Foods are often to blame for this, but you can get the virus by touching any surfaces or objects where it’s present then going on to touch your eyes, nose or mouths.
The norovirus is highly common in places where masses of food is produced, such as restaurants, nursing homes and cruise ships.
It’s a tough and contagious virus and will spread quickly from person to person. Those whose immune system is weakened are at particular risk of contracting noroviruses.
Symptoms of the norovirus
The norovirus is fairly easy to identify, since it comes with three distinctive symptoms - feeling nauseous, heavy vomiting and watery diarrhoea.
In some cases, those with the virus will also experience a slightly raised temperature, headaches, stomach cramps and joint or muscle aches. The virus can come on really quickly and you can go from feeling fine, to being very sick within a few hours.
While the virus tends to clear up on its own after a couple of days and its symptoms aren’t serious - you should make sure to drink plenty of fluids, since vomiting and diarrhoea can dehydrate you.
Complications are thankfully rare, but in those who have weakened immune systems (due to chemotherapy or HIV, for instance), the norovirus can lead to malnutrition, dangerous levels of dehydration and can even be fatal.
Treating the Norovirus
Since it’s caused by a virus, the norovirus won’t respond to antibiotics. There’s also no antiviral drugs that can be used to treat it, but thankfully, it tends to clear up of its own accord within a couple of days.
The most important thing is to prevent dehydration while the virus runs its course. Make sure to drink plenty of water and juices and children may benefit from an oral rehydration solution.
You should steer clear of alcohol and sugary drinks which can make dehydration and diarrhoea worse.
Preventing the Norovirus
The key to preventing the norovirus lies in good hygiene. Since it’s spread by contact with contaminated surfaces and foods, you should be sure to wash your hands often, take care when handling items that may harbour the infection and clean and disinfect your surfaces if someone in your household is sick.
People with the norovirus shouldn’t prepare food for a few days after the virus has passed, since they may still be at risk of passing on the infection.
It’s also general good practice to wash raw fruits and vegetables, as well as making sure seafood is thoroughly cooked.
Talk to a Doctor About the Norovirus
If you’re displaying symptoms of the norovirus and they’re particularly severe, or haven’t cleared up after a few days - talk to a doctor online now.
Our GPs can discuss your symptoms, diagnose whether you need additional treatment and if needed, prescribe medication to relieve your symptoms or refer you on to a specialist for the next stage of treatment or testing.
Updated: January 5, 2021