Norovirus is the most common cause of diarrhea and vomiting in children — and winter is the time of year physicians report seeing the most cases. The virus, which can cause stomach cramping accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (or all of the above), can affect people of all ages. Because it is a virus, antibiotics will not cure it — only time and fluids help.
Norovirus is spread when people touch a surface or another person contaminated with traces of vomit or stool and then put their hands in their mouths. The virus is very contagious and can be passed up to two days after symptoms have completely resolved. The virus is common in daycare and schools, and outbreaks are frequently reported in places such as nursing homes and cruise ships.
Here are a few tips to prevent Norovirus from invading your home, as well as how to avoid it when caring for others with the stomach bug:
- Insist your children wash their hands before eating every single time. The virus is sturdy and can be picked up from surfaces, so washing with soap for at least 20 seconds helps eliminate it on hands.
- Wash your hands each and every time you or your child uses the bathroom and wash their hands as well. Hand sanitizer is not as effective as hand washing!
- Avoid sharing food or utensils with people, even when well, because the virus is easily transmitted by saliva.
- Understand that if your child was ill, they are likely still contagious for at least two days afterward. Keep your child at home and away from daycare, school, play dates, birthday parties, and the like for a few days.
- Inform your daycare or school if your child has any symptoms of Norovirus so they can be extra vigilant about cleaning all surfaces and preventing an outbreak.
- Wash all surfaces in your home with a bleach containing solution. Wipe down countertops, changing tables, toilets, and doorknobs regularly.
- Wash linens and dry them in the dryer to remove the virus.
- If you are ill, avoid preparing food for others for at least two days after your symptoms have resolved.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables well before serving.
- Norovirus is most common in the winter and fall.
- It is highly contagious and can be transmitted by contact with infected people or surfaces they've touched.
- Infected people are contagious for several days after symptoms disappear.
- Strict hand-washing and hygiene can help prevent its spread.