Norovirus, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting, 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.
Norovirus can be very unpleasant but it usually clears up by itself in a few days.
You can normally look after yourself or your child at home.
Try to avoid going to your GP, as norovirus can spread to others very easily. Call your GP or NHS 111 if you're concerned or need any advice.
You're likely to have norovirus if you experience:
- suddenly feeling sick
- projectile vomiting
- watery diarrhoea
Some people also have a slight fever, headaches, painful stomach cramps and aching limbs.
The symptoms appear one to two days after you become infected and typically last for up to two or three days.
What to do if you have norovirus
If you experience sudden diarrhoea and vomiting, the best thing to do is to stay at home until you're feeling better. There's no cure for norovirus, so you have to let it run its course.
You don't usually need to get medical advice unless there's a risk of a more serious problem (see When to get medical advice).
To help ease your own or your child’s symptoms:
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. You need to drink more than usual to replace the fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhoea – as well as water, adults could also try fruit juice and soup. Avoid giving fizzy drinks or fruit juice to children as it can make their diarrhoea worse. Babies should continue to feed as usual, either with breast milk or other milk feeds.
- Take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.
- Get plenty of rest.
- If you feel like eating, eat plain foods, such as soup, rice, pasta and bread.
- Use special rehydration drinks made from sachets bought from pharmacies if you have signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouthor dark urine – read more about treating dehydration.
- Adults can take antidiarrhoeal and/or anti-emetic (anti-vomiting) medication – these are not suitable for everyone though, so you should check the medicine leaflet or ask or your pharmacist or GP for advice before trying them.
Babies and young children, especially if they're less than a year old, have a greater risk of becoming dehydrated. Read advice about looking after babies and children under five who have diarrhoea and vomiting.
Norovirus can spread very easily, so you should wash your hands regularly while you're ill and stay off work or school until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have cleared, to reduce the risk of passing it on (see Preventing norovirus below).