Page header image

Norovirus Infection

________________________________________________________________________

KEY POINTS

  • A norovirus infection is an illness that you may get after touching another person, object, or surface that is contaminated with one of the norovirus-type viruses. It is a common cause of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is contagious, which means that it is spread easily among people.
  • Treatment depends on how sick your child is. Infants and young children, and children with a chronic disease or weak immune system can become seriously ill from a norovirus infection. Contact a healthcare provider if your child has symptoms of a norovirus infection.
  • Make sure that your child washes his or her hands before preparing or eating food, after going to the bathroom, and after touching animals.

________________________________________________________________________

What is a norovirus infection?

A norovirus infection is an illness that is a common cause of stomach and bowel upset called gastroenteritis. It is contagious, which means that it is spread easily among people.

What is the cause?

Your child may get norovirus if:

  • Your child eats food that has been handled by someone who is infected.
  • Your child touches an object or surface that is contaminated and then touches his or her mouth.
  • Your child has contact with a person who is infected.

Outbreaks of norovirus infections are found in restaurants, cruise ships, schools, daycare centers, and nursing homes. The common thread is that these places prepare food in a kitchen where many people work.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Belly pain
  • Fever
  • Headache and body aches

Symptoms may start 1 to 2 days after eating contaminated food or touching a contaminated person, object, or surface.

Your child can become dehydrated if your child has nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea several times a day. Your child may have a dry mouth, feel dizzy when standing up, and urinate less often than usual. Your child may also have fewer or no tears when crying.

How is it diagnosed?

Norovirus is often suspected if many people get sick after eating the same food. Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and where and what food your child has eaten. Your child may have tests of bowel movements to look for the virus.

How is it treated?

Treatment depends on how sick your child is. It usually takes about 1 to 3 days to recover, but bowel movements after the infection can contain the virus for up to 2 weeks after your child starts to feel better.

Infants and young children, and children with a chronic disease or weak immune system can become seriously ill from a norovirus infection. Contact a healthcare provider if your child has symptoms of a norovirus infection.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow your child’s healthcare provider’s instructions. Here are some things you can do to help your child feel better:

  • If your child has severe vomiting, rest your child’s stomach and bowel. Try giving your child water, ice chips, Popsicles, or half-strength lemon-lime soft drinks (half water, half soft drink). Avoid liquids that are acidic such as orange juice, or caffeinated such as coffee.
  • Your child may want to eat soft, plain foods. Good choices are soda crackers, toast, plain pasta, rice, cooked cereal, applesauce, and bananas. It’s best for your child to eat slowly and avoid foods that are hard to digest or may irritate the stomach including foods with acid such as tomatoes or oranges, spicy or fatty food, meats, and raw vegetables. Your child may be able to go back to a normal diet in a few days.
  • If your child has severe diarrhea, your child’s body can lose too much fluid and get dehydrated. Dehydration can be very dangerous, especially for children. Your child may also be losing minerals that the body needs to keep working normally. Your healthcare provider may recommend an oral rehydration solution (ORS), which is a drink that replaces fluids and minerals. You can buy these products at drug and grocery stores.
  • Don’t give your child aspirin, ibuprofen, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) without checking first with your healthcare provider. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid, and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent a norovirus infection?

A norovirus infection can be a serious health threat to your child and the people around you. Prevention is very important. Norovirus can be found in the vomit and bowel movements of infected people. To help prevent the spread of norovirus:

  • Make sure that your child washes his or her hands before preparing or eating food, after going to the bathroom, and after touching animals.

For more information, contact:

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-10-11
Last reviewed: 2018-08-03
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
Page footer image