The winter bugs are biting and the one that many of us dread the most is Norovirus, a particularly nasty vomiting illness. Norovirus can actually strike at any time of the year - doing so at the World Athletics Championships in London in August - but there’s a reason it’s called the winter sickness bug, with November to April being the most likely months for an outbreak. So here’s what you need to know!

What are the symptoms of Norovirus?

You might have Norovirus if you suddenly feel sick, experience projectile vomiting or have watery diarrhoea. Other symptoms can include unpleasant stomach cramps, a fever, headaches and aching limbs. Norovirus tends to last for two or three days, with the sufferer feeling unwell a day or two after becoming infected.

Who is most likely to catch Norovirus?

Norovirus is spread through faeces and vomit and can be caught if you come into contact with an infected person, eat contaminated food or touch a contaminated surface. It’s highly contagious and spreads quickly in public places, including schools and hospitals. As as result, young children and older people are particularly at risk, although it can be easily caught by healthy adults too.

How can I prevent my family getting it?

Encourage family members to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after going to the toilet or before preparing food. If a family member does contract Norovirus, disinfect surfaces such as door handles, taps and kitchen worktops to reduce the risk of others coming into contact with the virus, and don’t allow them to prepare food for other people until at least 48 hours after their symptoms have stopped. Avoid eating raw, unwashed food.

Make sure all family members use separate towels and flannels and wash bedding and clothing, as well as disinfecting the loo thoroughly after every bout of sickness or diarrhoea!

Should I go to the doctor if I get Norovirus?

Due to its contagious nature, Norovirus thrives in busy public places like GP surgeries, so protect others by staying away. You should, however, phone your surgery to ask for advice if your symptoms last for more than three days, if your baby or child has Norovirus and is pale or lethargic or if the person with the virus has a serious or underlying medical condition.

What’s the best way to treat it?

As it’s a virus, Norovirus is unresponsive to antibiotics and you really just need to let it run its course. Get plenty of rest and drink lots to replace your body’s lost fluid. You can take paracetamol for aches and pains, as well as pharmacy-bought rehydration drinks from sachets if needed.

Another highly infectious sickness bug expected to hit the UK this winter is shigellosis, which tends to affect children and young people and lasts for five to seven days. For advice on any winter bugs, contact NHS England, NHS Direct Wales, NI Direct or NHS 24 Scotland.