How to avoid getting norovirus

Don't let the vomiting bug catch you or your family this year

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Norovirus is a highly contagious bug that has a nasty habit of spreading quickly, leaving vomiting and diarrhoea in its wake. Known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’ – although it can be caught at any time of the year – norovirus is the most common stomach bug in the UK. Prevent and prepare for winter’s worst with our quick-fire dos and don’ts…

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Do symptom checks

The key sign of norovirus is a combination of vomiting and diarrhoea. If you’ve caught the bug, you might experience a sudden sick feeling, a fever, headache, stomach cramps and aching limbs.

If you’re pregnant don’t worry. Norovirus won’t directly affect your baby. But, dehydration can lead to an electrolyte imbalance. It’s important to seek medical advice if you spot the signs of norovirus, as it can lead to complications if you become chronically dehydrated. 

Young children’s symptoms are generally mild. However, if your toddler’s fever is over 38C, he has vomiting and diarrhoea and is dehydrated, seek urgent medical advice. Dehydration can be recognised by complaints of being thirsty, if little urine is being passed or if he has have sunken eyes. If you’re concerned about any symptoms, speak to your GP or call the NHS health hotline 111.

Don’t risk infection in the home

Disinfect surfaces, especially those you prepare food on. Wipe door handles with a surface cleaner and ensure your little one’s highchair is properly cleaned. The virus can survive for several days on surfaces or objects that have been touched by someone with norovirus.

Wash soiled clothes and towels. If there’s any sick or food stains on yours or your toddler’s clothes, be sure to handle them carefully with disposable gloves and thoroughly wash them with detergent on a 60C setting for a full cycle, or at 40C with a bleach-based laundry product, and tumble dry at a hot setting, too.

Avoid unwashed salad and make sure food is cooked properly – the juices on meat should run clear and it should be piping hot in the middle. Avoid raw shellfish if you’re pregnant, oysters in particular often carry the bugs that cause this virus. 

Do drink up

If you’re pregnant and have diarrhoea make sure you drink lots of water. It can be difficult, but you should try and drink more than the usual recommended 1.2 litres a day. Your doctor may recommend drinking rehydration solution to replace lost liquid and body salts. Ensure you get lots of rest, too.

If your toddler is dehydrated encourage him to drink lots of water. Diluted fruit juice is good, too. Make sure he get lots of rest and eats little things that are easy to digest, like plain biscuits or mashed potato.

Don’t spread infection

Keep away from anyone that might be infected, especially if you’re pregnant or have young children. If you’re infected, be aware that the infection can still be in your system two weeks after the symptoms have passed.

Take children out of nursery or playgroups and wait at least 48 hours after the symptoms have passed to go back.

Opt out of swimming lessons for your child for two weeks after the last episode of suspected norovirus. Research suggests the virus can still be spread through the water, even if the symptoms appear to have passed.

Don’t let children share cups, cutlery or toys that they might put in their mouths. If children don’t wash their hands properly, infected droplets can be transferred onto the things they touch. 

Do wash frequently

Wash yours and your children’s hands often with soap and hot water, especially after going to the toilet.

Do use separate towels and flannels to limit the chance of spreading the infection.

Do clean your toilet or child’s potty with disinfectant after each vomiting or diarrhoea episode. It may be unpleasant but it’s better than passing on the bug. Be thorough with the cleaning – including the seat and handle.

Do monitor symptoms

According to the NHS, there is no specific cure, so you have to let the virus run its course. But, symptoms of norovirus usually last between 12 and 60 hours and normally you’ll start to feel better after 48 hours. If symptoms last longer than this seek medical advice.

If you or your child notice these symptoms after a trip abroad you should seek medical advice as it might be a sign of a more serious infection.

For more on norovirus head to nhs.uk/conditions/norovirus

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