Advice about dealing with Norovirus – the diarrhoea and vomiting bug

There are high levels of sickness and diarrhoea in the community at the moment and it is normal for the public to reach out for help.  There is a lot of simple self-help advice available which is very effective and it is important to remember that viral illnesses do not respond to antibiotic therapy.

Rob Mackie Clinical Operations Manager for Primary Care at EEAST & Clinical Lead for Emergency Care Practitioners in Norfolk says: “The best thing we can do is rest, drink lots, and treat our symptoms with over the counter remedies that are readily available in pharmacies and most supermarkets.  Some of the more common advice is below in our blog and if we follow this advice most of us will begin to feel better in 2-3 days, equally following this advice will help to reduce the workload on our health service which is battling to beat the weather and the Bugs!!”

The sudden onset of vomiting and diarrhoea may mean you have norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug.   Between 600,000 and 1 million people in the UK catch norovirus every year and while the illness is more common in winter but can be caught at any time of the year.

Norovirus is the most common stomach bug in the UK, affecting people of all ages.   The virus is highly contagious.  There is no specific cure – you just have to let it run its course.

The symptoms

• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Watery diarrhoea
• Stomach cramps
• Raised temperature
• Headaches
• Aching limbs

Not everybody will experience all of the symptoms. They usually begin around 12 to 48 hours after becoming infected, and can last for 12 to 60 hours. Norovirus can be unpleasant to experience but it’s not generally dangerous and most people make a full recovery within one or two days without having to see a doctor.

Some people, usually the young or the elderly, may become dehydrated and require medical treatment.

What should I do?

If you have norovirus, the following steps should help ease your symptoms:

• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
• Take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.
• If you feel like eating, eat foods that are easy to digest.
• Stay at home and don’t go to the doctor, because norovirus is very contagious and there is nothing the doctor can do while you have it.
• However, contact your GP to seek advice if your symptoms last longer than a few days or if you already have a serious illness.

Take extra care to prevent babies and small children who are vomiting or have diarrhoea from dehydration, by giving them plenty of fluids. Babies and young children can still drink milk.  Don’t worry if you are pregnant and you get norovirus, there is no risk to your unborn child.

How to stop it spreading

The virus is easily spread by contact with an infected person, especially through their hands. You can also catch it through contaminated food or drink or by touching contaminated surfaces or objects.  Door handles, escalator rails, shopping trolleys, petrol pumps for example.

• Wash your hands frequently.
• Do not share towels and flannels.
• Disinfect any surfaces that an infected person has touched.

Outbreaks in busy places such as hospitals, nursing homes and schools are common because the virus can survive for several days on surfaces or objects touched by an infected person.  If you or someone you live with has the virus, avoid visiting hospitals, nursing homes and schools while infectious.

At the East of England Ambulance Service we take infection prevention and control very seriously and have policies and procedures in place to minimise the risk of infections. All of our staff are trained in hand hygiene and have ready access to alcohol hand rub so that they can always clean their hands between patients. Our vehicles are also cleaned after each patient.


About East of England Ambulance Service

Our aim is to be the recognised leader in emergency, urgent and out of hospital care in the East of England....
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