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Advice on norovirus, the sickness and diarrhoea bug

26 Nov 2019

Schools are becoming affected by norovirus and the message to families who may be affected is to see out symptoms at home to prevent spreading the sickness and diarrhoea bug. You should also stay off school or work until the symptoms have stopped for two days. 

If visiting friends and family in hospital, the advice is to visit responsibly and if your children are affected by the virus, please reconsider bringing them to visit loved ones who could be susceptible to picking up the bug. Children can spread illnesses easily so please do think about whether bringing them into hospitals to visit already poorly people is the best thing for your loved ones and others.

Norovirus is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK. It's also called the winter vomiting bug because it's more common in winter, although you can catch it at any time of the year.

Dr Neil Haslam, deputy medical director at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Norovirus is pretty nasty and can make people feel very ill. However, most people do not need hospital care for this type of illness and you can help protect yourself from catching it. It is really important to wash your hands properly with warm soapy water and to sanitise surfaces as this will limit the spread of germs.

“If you do have norovirus, ensure you drink plenty of fluids, take paracetamol for any fever, aches and pains, and get plenty of rest. Stay at home to limit the spread to others and don’t share towels, cups or sheets. If you’re experiencing symptoms of norovirus and have relatives in hospital, please don’t visit them to prevent the spread of infection to patients on our wards."

Symptoms appear one to two days after you become infected and typically last for up to two or three days:

  • suddenly feeling sick
  • projectile vomiting
  • watery diarrhoea

Most people will recover from norovirus within a few days but remain carriers for some time. Some people also have a slight fever, headaches, painful stomach cramps and aching limbs. The most important thing is to have lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.

If your child or baby is affected by norovirus, do:

  • carry on breast or bottle feeding your baby – if they're being sick, try giving small feeds more often than usual
  • give babies on formula or solid foods small sips of water between feeds
  • take paracetamol if you're in discomfort – check the leaflet before giving it to your child

Do not: 

  • do not make baby formula weaker – use it at its usual strength
  • do not give children under 12 medicine to stop diarrhoea
  • do not give aspirin to children under 16

You can also visit a pharmacist if you or your child (over 5 years) has signs of dehydration – such as dark, smelly pee or peeing less than usual. They may recommend oral rehydration sachets you mix with water to make a drink.

If children have any of the following symptoms, call 999 or take them to A&E:

  • vomit blood or have vomit that looks like ground coffee
  • have bright green or yellow vomit
  • might have swallowed something poisonous
  • have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights
  • have a sudden, severe headache or stomach ache

Top tips to avoid norovirus:

  • Good hygiene is vital in helping to reducing the chances of catching norovirus.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you use the toilet, or before touching or preparing food. Antibacterial hand gel alone does not stop a viral infection like norovirus. 
  • Washing your hands properly should take around 20 seconds – the time it takes to sing ‘happy birthday’ twice
  • When preparing food, which you shouldn’t do if you’re infected, all fresh produce should be washed thoroughly and surfaces should be wiped down and disinfected before cooking
  • Wash used items of clothing separately on a high heat to kill germs.
  • Flush away any infected faeces or vomitin the toilet and clean the surrounding area well with a bleach based product