Norovirus, also called the “winter vomiting bug”, is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It can be very unpleasant, but usually goes away in about 2 days.
Symptoms of norovirus
The main symptoms of norovirus are:
- feeling sick (nausea)
- being sick (vomiting)
You may also have:
- a high temperature of 38C or above
- a headache
- aching arms and legs
- The symptoms start suddenly within 1 to 2 days of being infected.
How to treat norovirus yourself
You can usually treat yourself or your child at home.
You should start to feel better in a day or two.
Read about how to treat diarrhoea and vomiting in children and adults.
Stay off school or work until the symptoms have stopped for 2 days. Also avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this time.
This is when you’re most infectious.
How norovirus is spread
Norovirus can spread very easily.
You can catch norovirus from:
- close contact with someone with norovirus
- touching surfaces or objects that have the virus on them, then touching your mouth
- eating food that’s been prepared or handled by someone with norovirus
Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the best way to stop it spreading. Alcohol hand gels don’t kill norovirus.
When to get medical advice
You don’t normally need to see your GP if you think you or your child has norovirus, as there’s no specific treatment for it.
Antibiotics won’t help because it’s caused by a virus.
Visiting your GP surgery with norovirus can put others at risk, so it’s best to call your GP or NHS 111 if you’re concerned or feel you need advice.
Get medical advice if:
- your baby or child has passed six or more watery stools in the past 24 hours, or has vomited three times or more in the past 24 hours
- your baby or child is less responsive, feverish, or has pale or mottled skin
- you or your child has symptoms of severe dehydration, such as persistent dizziness, only passing small amounts of urine or no urine at all, or reduced consciousness – babies and elderly people have a greater risk of becoming dehydrated
- you have bloody diarrhoea
- your symptoms haven’t started to improve after a few days
- you or your child have a serious underlying condition, such as kidney disease, and have diarrhoea and vomiting
Your GP may suggest sending off a sample of your stool to a laboratory to confirm whether you have norovirus or another infection.
It’s not always possible to avoid getting norovirus, but following the advice below can help stop the virus spreading.
- Stay off work or school until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have passed. You should also avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this time.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food. Don’t rely on alcohol hand gels, as they do not kill the virus.
- Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated. It’s best to use a bleach-based household cleaner.
- Wash any items of clothing or bedding that could have become contaminated separately on a hot wash to ensure the virus is killed.
- Don’t share towels and flannels.
- Flush away any infected poo or vomit in the toilet and clean the surrounding area.
- Avoid eating raw, unwashed produce and only eat oysters from a reliable source, as oysters can carry norovirus.
Read more about preventing germs from spreading.