Norovirus: what it is and when to call the doctor
‘Tis the season of the sickness bug … but how do you know what’s normal, and what’s not?
If your household’s unlucky enough to have come down with a sickness bug, or perhaps there’s one going round your child’s nursery or school, knowing how to treat it and which symptoms to expect – as well as which ones to be wary of – can be really useful. So for peace of mind when sickness strikes, here’s everything you need to know about norovirus.
What is norovirus?
Nicknamed the ‘winter vomiting bug’ the NHS describes norovirus as ‘a stomach bug that causes sickness and diarrhoea’. It tends to appear in winter when the virus can spread easily around indoor settings where people are spending time close together, like at home or in schools. But it can strike all year round.
What are the symptoms of norovirus?
This sickness bug comes with a whole range of unpleasant symptoms including:
You may also experience:
- High temperature
- Aches and pains
‘Although symptoms are unpleasant and can make you feel quite unwell, norovirus usually passes in a few days,’ says ZoomDoc Chief Medical Officer, Dr Kenny Livingstone.
How to treat norovirus yourself
Most medical and expert advice says that norovirus is best treated by staying at home, getting plenty of rest and sipping fluids to avoid getting dehydrated, which will make you feel worse.
‘If you have a headache or temperature, this can be treated with age-appropriate paracetamol, but remember if you’re sick after taking medicine, you’ll still have to wait 4-6 hours before taking the next dose,’ says Dr Kenny.
Norovirus – how to stop the spread
As well as being unpleasant, norovirus is very contagious, which is why entire households can come down with it, one after another, or even at the same time.
The best way to stop the spread and try to prevent anyone else catching it is by disinfecting surfaces, not sharing towels and hot-washing contaminated bedding. Washing hands is also key, especially before eating or preparing food.
‘And make sure you use soap and water to thoroughly wash hands and not hand sanitisers, as these don’t kill norovirus,’ says Dr Kenny.
Always try to wash hands for 20 seconds or for as long as it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice!
To stop it spreading outside of your household, NHS guidance is to keep kids off nursery or school, or to stay off work for at least 48 hours after the last bout of sickness or diarrhoea.
What’s not normal and when to see a doctor
Norovirus may be pretty common and usually pass after a few days, what if you’re feeling really unwell with it, or things aren’t improving? How do you know whether to see a doctor or just bear with it?
The NHS warns parents to seek medical advice or to call 111 if they’re concerned about any of the following symptoms during a suspected bout of norovirus:
- you’re worried about a baby under 12 months
- your child stops breast or bottle feeding while they’re ill
- a child under 5 years has signs of dehydration – such as fewer wet nappies
- you or your child (over 5 years) still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
- you or your child keep being sick and cannot keep fluid down
- you or your child have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom
- you or your child have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days.
ZoomDoc also offers peace of mind by putting you in contact with a GP at a time that suits you. If you’re feeling unwell with norovirus and aren’t sure if there’s anything else you should be doing, don’t hesitate to use this super handy online GP appointment service.
“We get lots of parents worried about their children getting dehydrated, especially with very young babies and infants. Knowing what ‘red flag’ signs to look out for is essential. Recurrent vomiting and diarrhoea episodes due to norovirus can be unnerving.
‘If you or a family member are unable to keep any water down, not regularly passing urine or are getting worse not better, or have any concerning other symptoms aside from sickness, such as a rash, stiff neck or bad headache – or just anything that doesn’t feel right to you – always speak to a doctor, whether that’s your GP, 111 or our medical team here at ZoomDoc.’
When sickness spoils plans
It’s entirely possible that a bout of norovirus can prevent you from sitting an exam, attending something you’ve booked or being somewhere you’re expected to be.
An ill-timed sickness bug can even mean postponing a holiday or rearranging a flight home if you or a family member are too unwell to travel. Neither your airline nor fellow passengers will thank you for travelling with noro symptoms!
If sickness means having to cancel something significant, ZoomDoc can help provide a medical letter for airline, employer, university or insurance purposes.
Simply visit ZoomDoc and select the medical letter you need. Our team of experts will review your evidence and provide an official letter, the same-day, from just £35.
Travel or holiday cancellation letter
Event and activity cancellation letter
University and sickness letter
Download the ZoomDoc app today.