Dr Paul Barber joined the Whitchurch surgery in 2007 (photo credit whitchurchsurgery.org.uk)

There have been reports of many children being off school sick in these weeks leading up to Christmas. The national press has also carried stories about a record number of people suffering from sicknesses including norovirus.

According to an article this week in the Telegraph newspaper, almost 900,000 people in England have been infected with norovirus this winter, which is twice as many as were infected by mid-December last year. It is the worst start to the norovirus season on record, the paper says.

SYMPTOMS

We asked Dr. Barber at the Whitchurch Surgery for his comments. Here is what he told us…

“Norovirus is one of the more common causes of gastroenteritis and particularly at the moment there has been a real surge in cases which is terrible timing for Christmas. It is very infectious and causes flu like symptoms; aching and shivering as well as vomiting and diarrhoea.

“There is no cure but at least it’s not actually that serious as a rule, the main risk is dehydration which is more of an issue in young children or perhaps the very elderly.”

PREVENTION: CLEANLINESS IS KEY
Regarding symptoms and ways to help prevent passing it on to others, Dr. Barber said,

“The symptoms should last only a few days but you can remain infectious for at least 48 hours afterwards. Hand-washing is the key, both to help prevent catching it and to avoid passing it on. Alcohol gels are not really enough, you need to use soap and hot water – lots of it.

Transmission electron micrograph of noroviruses.

Any contaminated clothing etc is very infectious and will need a long hot wash cycle. Bleach will kill the virus (needs about 4 tablespoons/litre of water).”

SUSPECT YOU OR CHILD HAVE IT?

Dr. Barber had this to say about what to do if you suspect that you have this sickness,

“If you get gastroenteritis, by all means ring the surgery but don’t come down to see us as it will just spread around and there is not a lot that can be done.”

He continued,

“If you think you or your child are getting dangerously dehydrated (poor urine output,drowsy/floppy) then do call of course, we can visit or we can get you down when no one else is in the waiting room.

Some patients need to have intravenous fluids but this is quite unusual. Normally oral rehydration sachets will do the trick (little and often in kids if they don’t like the taste).”

MEDICATIONS

Regarding treatment, Dr. Barber told us,

“Paracetamol for the aches and pains is arguably less irritant to the stomach than ibuprofen. We tend to avoid anti sickness tablets (no proven benefit during gastroenteritis) and also anti diarrhoea medicines as they can be unsafe with gastroenteritis and may lead you to think you are better when you are not (and are still infectious).”

Dr. Barber concluded,

“When recovering it’s usually best to stay clear of milk based foods/drinks as it can prolong the diarrhoea (though not actually harmful). Chicken soup, banana, dry toast are safer bets. In babies, you can continue milk as normal (though 24 hrs or so on water is safe if they really can’t tolerate milk).”

We thank Dr. Barber for his comments and we wish all our readers a safe and healthy holiday over Christmas time.


The Telegraph article is HERE. The Whitchurch surgery website is HERE.

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