20th December, 20194 min read

How to treat norovirus at home

Last reviewed: 20/12/2019
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Norovirus (also known as the winter vomiting bug) can cause diarrhoea as well as vomiting, fever, and aches and pains. Your symptoms should start to improve after a few days without medical treatment.

There’s little a doctor can do to help you recover more quickly, so it’s usually best to stay at home.

There are many ways you can manage your symptoms from the comfort of your own home. If you’re not sure where to start, you’ll find all the information you need in this article.

How long does norovirus last?

Norovirus should last about 2 days, but it’s best to avoid direct contact with other people until you’ve been symptom-free for 48 hours. This will help prevent the spread of the bug.

When will you start getting symptoms?

Once you’ve become infected, it may take about 12 to 48 hours for you to develop symptoms. During this time you may be able to pass the virus on to others.

How can you look after yourself at home?

When you have norovirus, try to stay at home and rest. Below are some steps you can take to look after your health while you’re ill and avoid complications as you recover:

  1. Drink plenty of water - you’ll need to replace any fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhoea.

  2. Eat easy-to-digest foods - if you feel like eating, stick to plain foods that are easy to digest like soup, rice, bread and pasta.

  3. Take medication - you can take painkillers to manage symptoms of aches, pain and a fever. Always stick to the recommended dose. However, don’t take medicines that stop diarrhoea, like loperamide, as they can make you more ill.

However, you should always speak to a pharmacist or doctor for further guidance before taking painkillers or another medication.

How to avoid dehydration

Dehydration is the main complication to watch out for when you have norovirus because vomiting and diarrhoea can make you lose excess water and salt. Aim to drink enough water so that your pee remains a pale yellow colour.

Norovirus can make it difficult to keep fluids down, so take small sips of water often rather than drinking a large amount all at once.

Young children and older people have a higher risk of becoming dehydrated, so drinking plenty of fluids is vital. Seek emergency medical help if you spot any of the signs of dehydration.

Don’t give children fruit juice or fizzy drinks if they’re under the age of 5 as this can make diarrhoea worse. Babies should continue to breastfeed or have other milk feeds. Small, frequent feeds can help to maintain hydration.

Rehydration drinks

You may want to buy rehydration drinks if you’re worried about dehydration. Many pharmacies stock sachets (called oral rehydration salts) that can be added to water. Drinking them can help restore your body’s natural balance of water, salt and sugar.

If you’re looking after a baby or child with norovirus, encourage them to take regular sips of a rehydration drink, even if they vomit. However, not all rehydration drinks are suitable for children, so ask a doctor or pharmacist for advice.

When to speak to a doctor

Most people will recover from norovirus without needing to see a doctor. However, speak to a doctor if you have an underlying illness or you’ve had symptoms for more than a few days. Contact emergency medical services if you or a loved one develop severe dehydration.

If you'd like to learn about other ways to treat norovirus symptoms at home, have a look at natural remedies for norovirus.

Was this article helpful?

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.