How is norovirus infection treated?
The vomiting diarrhea caused by the norovirus usually does not require any specific treatment. The focus of the measures is on alleviating the symptoms of the disease. In addition to fighting diarrhea, this also includes compensating for the loss of fluids and electrolytes resulting from diarrhea. Only in more severe cases or in children and elderly patients is it urgently advisable to see a doctor, otherwise the norovirus infection can in principle be treated at home with some home remedies and medication.
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So far there is no special antiviral drug (drug to inhibit the replication of viruses) that works specifically against the norovirus. Antibiotics are generally not effective against viruses.
For this reason, treatment options for norovirus infection are limited to symptom relief. The basic measures include increased fluid intake (to compensate for the fluid and electrolyte balance impaired by vomiting and diarrhea), sufficient food and physical rest.
Special electrolyte solutions can also be used, especially for children and the elderly, who are often particularly badly affected by electrolyte and fluid loss. If vomiting and / or diarrhea become unbearably severe, agents to contain these symptoms can be taken after consultation with a doctor.
Find out more about the here Symptoms of Norovirus Infection
Why don't antibiotics help?
As the name suggests, norovirus infection is a viral disease. Antibiotics, however, only work against bacteria. The different classes of antibiotics attack the bacteria in different places (some prevent the cell wall structure of the bacteria, others inhibit protein synthesis). This is one of the reasons why an antibiotic is only effective against individual bacterial strains and never against all.
However, they are definitely not effective against viruses. Viruses neither have a cell wall nor do they synthesize proteins. Most scientists even go so far as not to even classify them as living things. In the absence of a metabolism of their own, viruses “attack” human cells and then make use of the metabolic mechanisms that exist there. Since antibiotics are directed against bacteria and not against human cells, they are completely powerless against viruses. Instead, there are active substances that are specifically effective against viruses, called antivirals. They mostly either inhibit the virus from penetrating the human cell, the replication of the virus DNA in the cell or the release of the newly produced viruses from the cell.
By the way: antibiotics are not only ineffective in the case of a norovirus infection, they can even be harmful. First, like any other drug, taking antibiotics carries the risk of side effects, which can vary greatly depending on the antibiotic. Second, the human gut is home to a wide variety of beneficial bacteria that can be compromised by inappropriately ingesting antibiotics. This can lead to digestive problems or even inflammatory bowel diseases if other, more resistant germs exploit the weakening of the "benign" intestinal germs.
Read more about the topic here: Antiviral drugs
Home remedies for healing
The classic home remedy for gastrointestinal diseases with diarrhea and vomiting, such as the norovirus infection, is the consumption of cola and pretzel sticks. However, this can only be recommended with restrictions: Cola is better not to drink if you have diarrhea, as the sugar it contains increases the amount of water excreted in the intestine. In addition, caffeine increases the excretion of potassium, which increases the lack of this electrolyte and cannot be compensated for by the salt sticks (which mainly contain sodium). Those affected are best supplied with water, tea or broth in combination with pretzel sticks (for the sodium) and bananas (for the potassium). When it comes to tea, the choice is usually chamomile tea, which soothes the stomach and intestines.
In most cases, a special diet for children or infants is not necessary. It should be ensured that there is sufficient fluid and food intake, otherwise the same rules apply as for adults.
A hot water bottle placed on your stomach may be useful to relieve stomach cramps. Air-dried, pitted apples are ideal for combating diarrhea: they contain pectin, which absorbs excess fluid in the intestine. Bananas have a similar effect, which, given their high potassium content, makes them a kind of all-purpose weapon in case of a norovirus infection.
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Many homeopaths recommend drinking healing earth dissolved in mineral water (about one teaspoon of healing earth for a quarter of a liter of water) to treat a norovirus infection. The healing earth, like bananas or apples (see above), is supposed to absorb excess fluid in the intestine and thereby alleviate diarrhea.
In addition, there are numerous homeopathic products that promise relief from diarrhea and vomiting and accelerated healing of the norovirus infection. These include, for example Camphora, Colchicum, borax or Chelidonium. In this context, it should be emphasized that homeopathy and naturopathy represent two completely different principles, since in homeopathy the natural active ingredients are diluted so much that ultimately not a single molecule of the active ingredient is left in the globules. So it is actually not particularly surprising that there has not yet been a single scientific study that has found an advantage of homeopathic remedies over placebo.
So if you suffer from a norovirus infection, you can of course use homeopathic remedies, but a medical consultation is essential, especially in more severe cases, as well as with children or the elderly.
You can find more information on the topic here: Homeopathy for diarrhea
One of the most important illnesses associated with norovirus infection is the loss of electrolytes. This is due to the fact that with the diarrhea or vomit, not only fluid but also the electrolytes contained in it are excreted. Among the electrolytes in the human body, sodium and potassium play a particularly prominent role. Excessive and inadequately balanced loss of these electrolytes can lead to serious consequences, including abnormal heart rhythms or impaired consciousness.
For this reason, the supply of electrolytes is one of the cornerstones of the treatment of a norovirus infection. In mild to moderately severe cases, the consumption of pretzel sticks (salt consists of sodium and chloride) and bananas (contain a lot of potassium) are sufficient. For more severe cases or for children or elderly people, special electrolyte solutions are available in the pharmacy, which have the advantage that they improve the fluid balance in addition to the electrolyte balance.
Read more about the topic here: Electrolytes
As a result of vomiting and diarrhea, the body of people with norovirus loses a large amount of fluid. This can be particularly dangerous for children and the elderly if an adequate fluid balance is not established.
Water, tea (especially chamomile tea, which has a calming effect on the intestinal mucosa) or broth are particularly suitable. Cola, although it is one of the most widely used home remedies for diarrhea, is less suitable because the sugar it contains increases the excretion of water in the intestines. In more severe cases, as well as with children or senior citizens, the use of electrolyte solutions from the pharmacy is recommended: These not only ensure fluid balance, but also counteract the parallel electrolyte deficiency.
Treatment of nausea
If a sick person suffers from nausea as part of a norovirus infection and vomits, this is a mechanism by which the body tries to get rid of the virus. Since the disease process with a norovirus infection takes place mainly in the intestine and less in the stomach, there is basically little reason against combating this mechanism. Especially when vomiting gets out of hand and the person concerned can practically no longer "keep" food or liquid, measures should be taken to alleviate the nausea and vomiting. Otherwise it can quickly lead to a pronounced lack of fluids and electrolytes, which can be dangerous, especially for children and the elderly.
Suitable active ingredients for the treatment of nausea and vomiting include dimenhydrinate (e.g. Vomex®), Meclozin or Promethazine. On the also common means MCP (Metoclopramide) should be avoided in the case of a norovirus infection, as it accelerates the intestinal transit and can thus aggravate the diarrhea.
Before you resort to one of the above-mentioned active ingredients in the event of a norovirus infection, you should have consulted a doctor if possible. Based on his experience, he can weigh up whether the use of the active ingredients is recommended for you or whether fluid and electrolyte balance and the use of home remedies are to be classified as sufficient.
The home remedies that have proven to be effective against nausea and vomiting include food that is gentle on the stomach, such as mashed potatoes, mashed bananas or rusks.
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Treatment of diarrhea
Like vomiting, diarrhea is a way in which the body tries to get rid of the pathogen causing the norovirus infection. Compared to vomiting, however, diarrhea is to be assessed as much more effective: it starts at the actual place of the event (in the intestine and not in the stomach) and leads to an accelerated excretion of the viruses. For this reason, the use of drugs to combat diarrhea should be treated with appropriate reluctance. If in doubt, consult your family doctor, who will be able to determine the extent of the illness in you and weigh up whether it makes sense to treat your diarrhea with medication.
When this is the case, the most common drugs are loperamide and medicinal charcoal tablets. If the doctor advises cautious treatment in the form of home remedies, stomach-friendly food such as rusks or banana porridge is recommended. The latter has the advantage that it not only contains a lot of potassium, but also swells in the intestine and thereby binds excess water.
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Treatment of abdominal cramps
The abdominal cramps in the context of a norovirus infection are an expression of the body's efforts to excrete the pathogen through the stool. Consequently, it is not entirely safe to treat this admittedly very unpleasant symptom of the disease. Although it can usually be switched off very effectively by using the appropriate active ingredients (e.g. loperamide), this also extends the stay of the noroviruses in the intestinal tract. However, since these do not pose any further risk to the body other than vomiting and diarrhea, there is generally little argument against using the medication. Nevertheless, you should seek advice from a doctor beforehand.
You are on the safe side with home remedies for the treatment of abdominal cramps: hot water bottles soothe the stomach and intestines in mild to moderately severe cases just as effectively as chamomile or fennel tea.