Upset stomach, diarrhoea and vomiting

Often called norovirus or winter vomiting bug


Norovirus or the winter vomiting bug, is the most common stomach bug in the UK, affecting people of all ages. The first sign of norovirus is usually a sudden sick feeling followed by forceful vomiting and watery diarrhoea, which occurs 24 to 48 hours after you have been infected.  Most people make a full recovery within a couple of days.

Symptoms include:

  • Loose, watery stools or diarrhoea  (stools may contain traces of mucus)
  • A high temperature of 38oC or above
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps

If the diarrhoea or vomiting is severe and you are losing more fluid than you can take in, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated.  The symptoms of dehydration are:

  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Passing little or no urine
  • Dry mouth


Winter vomiting is spread very easily from person to person, so take care with hand washing and general hygiene to protect the rest of your family. Take care not to infect other vulnerable people such as older people or those with a lower immune system like diabetics.

Do not go to your GP, A&E or any other health clinic as you risk infecting other people.

Your symptoms should begin to improve after 48 hours but may continue for up to seven days.
If you are still vomiting after 48 hours have passed, or if the diarrhoea is not beginning to settle after four days you should telephone your GP for advice.


Most diarrhoea and vomiting do not require treatment and will improve after a few days.  You can manage the symptoms at home:

  • Drink plenty of fluids – it is important that you replace any fluids that your body loses through vomiting or diarrhoea.  Drink at least two litres (3.5 pints) of water a day, plus 200ml (a third of a pint) of water every time you pass diarrhoea.
  • Try to maintain a healthy diet – avoid eating foods that are high in fat or sugar as they could make your symptoms worse. You will be able to tolerate light, plain foods such as rice or wholemeal bread, better than you can spicy or rich foods.  It may be easier for you to eat six small meals a day rather than three larger meals

To reduce the risk of passing the virus on to others it is important to wash your hands regularly and stay at home until you are clear of symptoms for 48 hours.