Winter vomiting bug is none other than the notorious Norovirus, the No.1 cause of vomiting and diarrhea (gastroenteritis) in humans. The virus is transmitted through food and water contaminated with feces, by touching contaminated surfaces, and person to person contact. It is highly contagious, and since it is a virus, no cure is yet known for the unpleasant illness. It is not dangerous, and most people make a full recovery a few days after acquiring the infection.

Outbreaks of norovirus infection often occur in closed or semi-closed communities, such as long-term care facilities, overnight camps, hospitals, schools, prisons, clubs, dormitories, and cruise ships, where the infection spreads very rapidly either by person-to-person transmission or through contaminated food.


The first sign of norovirus is usually a sudden sick feeling followed by forceful vomiting and watery diarrhoea.

Some people may also have:

  • a raised temperature (over 38C/100.4F)
  • headaches
  • stomach cramps
  • aching limbs

Symptoms usually appear one to two days after you become infected but they can start sooner. Most people make a full recovery within a couple of days.

Apart from the risk of dehydration, the illness is not generally dangerous and there are usually no long-lasting effects from having norovirus. However, it can be pretty unpleasant while you have it.


The main risk from norovirus is dehydration from your body losing water and salts from vomiting and diarrhoea.

The first sign of dehydration is thirst. Other symptoms are:

  • dizziness or light-headedness
  • headache
  • tiredness
  • dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • dark, concentrated urine
  • passing only small amounts of urine (fewer than three or four times a day)

Mild dehydration is common and can be easily reversed by making sure you have plenty to drink.

Dehydration is more of a risk in the very young and the elderly. It’s important that you get medical attention straight away if you think your child is becoming dehydrated.

Severe dehydration

If you do not replace the lost fluid, dehydration will get worse and could lead to complications such as low blood pressure and kidney failure, and can even be fatal.

As well as severe thirst, you may also have:

  • dry, wrinkled skin
  • an inability to urinate
  • irritability
  • sunken eyes
  • a weak pulse
  • a rapid heartbeat
  • cold hands and feet
  • seizures


There is no specific treatment for norovirus, as it is a virus and will stay for the duration of the illness. We can normally fight off the virus within a couple of days.

It is important to stay hydrated as dehydration is a serious side effect of the illness. Rehydration salts may be taken to compensate for lost electrolytes. Over the counter medication such as paracetamol may be taken for relief of body aches and pains that are common with viral illnesses.

Try to consume foods that are easy to digest. If you are working, it is best to avoid work for at least 2 days after onset of illness to prevent transfer of disease.

Dr. Annie

Physician, mom and wife

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