Norovirus: What parents need to know

girl with stomach acheNorovirus—a highly contagious virus that causes diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain—has made an earlier than usual appearance in Boston, sickening more than 100 students and staff members at Condon Elementary School.

Norovirus infects 19-21 million people in the United States every year. Infections usually peak between November and April. There is no vaccine to prevent infection or drug to treat it. The infection typically doesn’t last long, says Gail Potter-Bynoe, manager, infection control at Boston Children’s Hospital.

What should I do if my child has norovirus?

Children infected with norovirus are typically pretty sick for 24 hours and should be kept out of school or day care. If your child does come down with norovirus, you should:

  • encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids to replace fluids lost after vomiting or diarrhea
  • watch your child for signs of dehydration, including dry skin, headache, decreased urine output and dry or sticky mouth
  • call your child’s health care provider if you have any concerns, particularly if your child appears dehydrated or the illness lasts longer than 48 hours
  • keep your child out of school or day care for three days after symptoms have resolved

“Parents should know that norovirus is very easily spread,” Potter-Bynoe says. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these simple steps to contain the virus:

  • wash hands with soap and water often
  • rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly
  • if preparing shellfish, cook them to 140°F or higher
  • immediately clean and disinfect surfaces and wash soiled laundry after  vomiting or diarrhea
  • when you are sick, don’t cook or prepare food for others

For more tips about how to handle vomiting in children, read The Nurse’s Throw-up Guide.