19th December, 20193 min read

When to see a doctor for diarrhoea and vomiting (norovirus)

Last reviewed: 19/12/2019
Medically reviewed

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If you’ve got diarrhoea and vomiting, you may have caught a tummy bug called norovirus, otherwise known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’.

Most people recover from norovirus within a few days and without treatment. However, symptoms like diarrhoea and vomiting can make it seem like your condition is more serious than it is. This can make it hard to tell if you need to see a doctor, but it’s generally recommended that you stay at home, as norovirus can spread to others easily. If you’re worried, you can phone a doctor for advice.

Are you worried that you may have norovirus? This article will help you learn about when to see a doctor about diarrhoea and vomiting, and where you can get help if you need it.

Do you think you have norovirus?

Norovirus typically starts with watery diarrhoea that comes on suddenly, as well as nausea and vomiting. You may also develop a temperature (fever), headache or lose your appetite.

Should you call a doctor?

Most people with norovirus don’t need to see a doctor in person. It’s best to stay at home if you have symptoms. However, some symptoms should be brought to a doctor’s attention. Such symptoms include if you:

  • have symptoms of severe dehydration like dizziness, difficulty peeing (urinating) or loss of consciousness
  • have blood in your diarrhoea
  • are vomiting a lot and can’t keep fluids down
  • have a fever over 38C (100.4F)
  • have symptoms that start to get worse or persist for longer than a few days
  • have visited a place where hygiene standards are poor in the last few weeks
  • have a serious condition, such as kidney disease or a weakened immune system while you have diarrhoea and vomiting

Call a doctor if you’re worried or need advice.

Take extra care to avoid those who have a higher risk of developing dangerous complications from norovirus, like older people, pregnant women, babies and young children.

How can a doctor help?

If you call a doctor for advice they may ask you to send a sample of your poo to a laboratory so they can find out if something else is causing your symptoms. They may also give you antibiotics if they find you have a bacterial infection.

When to worry

Going to public places can put others at risk, but you should seek emergency medical attention, such as going to an emergency department if you:

  • vomit blood or if your vomit resembles coffee grounds
  • have bright green or yellow vomit
  • may have swallowed a poisonous substance
  • have a stiff neck and pain when you look at bright lights
  • suddenly develop a severe headache or tummy pain

Taking care of yourself at home

If you don’t have any worrying symptoms and are generally in good health, stay at home until you get better. If you need more help with managing symptoms of norovirus, here’s how to treat norovirus at home.

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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.