Protect yourself – and others – against the winter vomiting bug

A report by Public Health England (PHE) has revealed cases of the winter vomiting bug called norovirus are up 55 percent in England compared with last year. But what is norovirus and what can you do to stop the virus spreading?

Norovirus is highly contagious and one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK, says the NHS. And while it’s commonly called the winter vomiting bug, you can catch it at any time of the year (though it is more common during the winter season). The symptoms include suddenly feeling sick, vomiting (including projectile vomiting) and watery diarrhoea, with some people also experiencing a slight temperature, stomach pain, headache and aching limbs.

According to figures released by PHE, lab tests show there have been 1,704 confirmed cases already this winter – though this number is accepted as a fraction of the real number, since many people who get the bug don’t see a health professional. The same figures show there have been more than 100 norovirus outbreaks in hospitals this year, some of which have forced NHS wards and bays to close.

But despite the fact that there have been many more reported cases this year, PHE experts have claimed there’s no need for alarm, as the levels being seen are still within an expected range.

Take action

So what should you do if you or someone in your family is unlucky enough to be affected?

Good hand hygiene is important to stop the spread of the virus, says PHE. So wash your hands thoroughly using soap and water and drying them after using the toilet, before preparing food and eating. Don’t rely on alcohol gels, as these do not kill the virus.

It’s also important to keep hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids to replace those you’ve lost from vomiting and diarrhoea. Water may be the only thing you can stomach, but try fruit juice or thin soup if you feel like them. If you’re worried about dehydration, call your local Careway pharmacist to ask about special rehydration drinks made from sachets (a dry mouth or dark urine are two signs of dehydration).

Your pharmacist can also advise you about over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol that may help relieve fever, aches and pains, or you may want to speak to your GP over the phone about taking antidiarrhoeal and/or anti-emetic (anti-sickness) medication (these medicines aren’t suitable for everyone so check with your pharmacist before using them).

Meanwhile, try to stay away from A&E and your GP’s surgery if you have norovirus symptoms, as you’ll only end up spreading the virus to others. Meanwhile, the good news is you should make a full recovery in a few days (if you don’t, call your GP’s surgery or NHS 111 for advice).

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.