You know you're in for a bad time when your doc tells you that you might have caught the "winter vomiting bug." And believe me — as someone who has survived norovirus three winters in a row now — "You're gonna have a bad time," as South Park would say. Here's how to combat norovirus because unfortunately, science has not yet eradicated this awful, gross stomach virus that turns your bathroom into your own personal hell for 24 to 72 hours. If I sound slightly traumatized by my experiences with norovirus, I totally am, by the way.
Norovirus — short for the Norwalk virus, where it was first identified in an outbreak in a Norwalk, Ohio, elementary school in 1968 — is one pesky, resilient, and pervasive little bugger. Oh, you've thrown up every hour on the dot for the past 12 hours? That's great. Here's diarrhea for the next day. But wait, there's more! Have you bleached everything you've touched in the last 24 hours? No, you just used Lysol? Oh well that's too bad because all those barf particles, I mean, norovirus — can stay on surfaces for up to days or even weeks and only bleach is going to cut through all the germs.
Once you've got norovirus, you're just going to have to let it take its course, so the real battle is combatting norovirus before it even gets through your front front.
Wash Your Hands All The Damn Time
Norovirus Not So Fun Fact: It's a poop germ. Norovirus is excreted from the body via feces and vomit, so any microscopic speck of poop or aerosolized barf — on your hands, or your toilet seat, or your child's backpack from school — that's a transmission point. And, if you're a compulsive nail biter like me, unwashed hands just mean you're even more likely to contract it. And no, alcohol sanitizer won't work on norovirus. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds in hot, soapy water — and don't forget to scrub between your fingers and around your nails.
Bleach Is Your Friend
Remember how I mentioned about how vomit can aerosolize? Researchers actually went about proving it by building a puking robot — for science! So that means, even if you managed to make it to the toilet every single time, there's still a chance that nasty norovirus is still quietly waiting like a gastrointestinal sniper somewhere in your bathroom. A bleach solution is the best disinfectant for norovirus.
Please Just Stay Home Already
Yes, our country has abysmal paid sick leave policies — but the last thing you want to do is take out your whole office down with norovirus. Ditto this about sending a sick child with norovirus back to school too soon. Norovirus typically runs its course in about 12 to 48 hours, but you can still be contagious for as many as three days after the worst symptoms have stopped. Norovirus can actually be excreted in feces for up to two weeks after.
Drink ALL The Water
If you do end up getting norovirus, accept your fate and keep yourself near your bathroom. Norovirus is a little more violent than some other stomach bugs, so be prepared for some serious Olympic-level barfing. That said, make sure you don't get dehydrated. Start with little sips before filling up your belly and make sure you can keep them down. Gatorade, Pedialyte, and electrolyte-enhanced waters are all good options to remain hydrated. Once you've finally stopped puking and can keep down liquids, don't go rushing for a cheeseburger just yet: Stick to the BRAT — bananas, apples, rice, toast — diet for a couple of days. Your gut will thank you.
Yes, norovirus sucks — but just remember that it's relatively fast-moving, so you'll be over it in no time, even if it feels like the worst two days of your life.