With the arrival of winter months and Christmas cheer there also comes risk of catching some nasty bugs that are more common in colder weather, such as the norovirus stomach bug and flu.

Getwestlondon has put together some of the most important things to know about the two illnesses, as well as some tips with the help of the NHS to help you stay healthy this Christmas.


The "winter vomit bug" is extremely infectious and is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK, according to the NHS.

You can catch this nasty illness be any time of the year, but it is more common in the winter months.

While the symptoms are extremely unpleasant, the illness clears up by itself in just a few days and you are normally able to care for yourself, your child, or your family member at home.

The NHS recommends:

  • Trying to avoid a visit to the GP because of how easily it can spread to other people
  • instead call a doctor or NHS 111 if advice is needed or if someone is concerned about their health.
  • It is the symptoms of norovirus that make it very distinctive and also particularly nasty

Symptoms include:

  • Feeling sick very suddenly
  • Projectile vomit
  • Suffering from watery diarrhoea.
  • A fever
  • Headaches, painful stomach cramps and aching limbs
Wife of Peter Andre, Emily MacDonagh, receives her NHS flu vaccination from Boots pharmacist

Symptoms take between one to two days to appear after someone has become infected, but luckily they should only last two or three days.

The best thing to do after catching norovirus is to stay at home until the symptoms go away – there is no cure, so the body just needs to run its course.

Drink plenty of fluids during the illness and take paracetamol for fever, aches and pains you may be feeling.

It is also important to get plenty of rest and if the person who is ill is feeling like eating, be sure to stick to plain foods like soup, rice, pasta and bread.

If a person is feeling dehydrated, they can take special rehydration drinks bought from a pharmacist, and adults can take anti-diarrhoeal or anti-vomiting medication, although these are not suitable for everyone.

How to prevent norovirus

It is not always possible to avoid getting the bug, but there are some things you can do to minimise the risk.

Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with soapy water is an important step to preventing the spread of norovirus, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food.

Alcohol hand gels also do not kill the virus, so they should not be relied upon too heavily.

Surfaces and objects that might be contaminated using bleach should be disinfected.

Washing clothing or bedding that may have become infected is also a good way of killing the virus and towels or flannels should not be shared to help prevent the spread.

Also avoid eating raw, unwashed produce and eat only oysters from a reliable source as then can carry the virus.


While norovirus has some nasty symptoms but clears quite quickly, flu on the other hand can be a major killer of vulnerable people, especially those over 65 with long-term health problems.

The common viral illness is spread by coughs and sneezes, and can also be caught all year round, but much like norovirus it is particularly common in winter.

It has many cold like symptoms:

  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Temperatures
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Aches and pains.
  • A dry chesty cough

The NHS recommends:

  • Visiting your GP if you are over 65, pregnant, have a condition such as diabetes or heart disease, a weakened immune system or if symptoms have not improved after a week
  • A free flu jab is available to certain groups, which is the best way of stop yourself catching it

The elderly, pregnant or those with a long-term medical condition can get a free jab on the NHS.

The jab is also available to people living in care homes, or those on carer for the elderly or disable people.

Health and social care workers are also eligible for the vaccine.

The best time to have the vaccine is between September and early November and those who think they need it should contact their.

How to prevent flu

The best way to prevent flu is vaccination

Preventing flu is very similar to preventing norovirus as hygiene is key to killing the germs.

Make sure hands are washed regularly with soap and warm water, and clean surfaces such as keyboard, telephone and door handles.

Also tissues should be used to cover mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of flu and bin tissues as soon as you can.

Antiviral medication can be taken if there is a lot of flu around, if someone is elderly or has a health condition, or has been in contact with someone with flu or has not had the vaccination.

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