So, tis the season of colds, flu and an assortment of other germs meant to wreak havoc with our lives this winter. One of the most common winter illnesses besides cold and flu is the dreaded stomach bug. Huffington Post just ran an article on the most recent Norovirus outbreak on board a cruise ship. While Norovirus is often associated with cruises, it is actually the most common cause of gastroenteritis according to the CDC. Preventing Norovirus infection can be tricky because it is a very hardy organism and spreads very easily. However, there are a few precautions you can take to protect yourself. Keep reading to learn more and check out my discussion about how to maintain a healthy digestive system.
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What is Norovirus?
So, what is Norovirus? Basically, it is a really easily spread stomach virus that will leave the infected individual hugging the porcelain God and praying for salvation for several days. The vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps will most likely spread through an entire cruise ship or classroom very quickly. Many people call it a stomach flu but that really isn’t an accurate term.
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Preventing Norovirus Infection
No matter what you want to call it, there are a few ways to protect yourself from Norovirus infection. If you are looking for ways to prevent Norovirus naturally, here are a few suggestions.
Keep your immunity up!
We are exposed to all sorts of bacteria and viruses every day that have the possibility of causing illness. Why are we not sick every day? Because our immune systems handle them without a problem. The only time we get sick from contact with germs is when our immune systems are too weak to put up a fight. So, keep you and your family in fighting condition with plenty of rest, lots of vitamin C, plenty of fluids and you are well on your way to defeating the stray Norovirus that makes it into your body. Boosting Norovirus immunity comes with boosting your overall immunity.
Preventing Norovirus infection with probiotics:
One thing I have in my fridge every single day is a bottle of probiotics. What are probiotics? Basically, they are the GOOD bacteria in your gut that helps keep things in check. When your good bacteria get out of whack, you start suffering from stomach ailments. These beneficial bacteria can be found in high quality yogurts (look for the words ‘live or active cultures’ but the dose is much higher in the capsule of probiotics. You can also find dosages appropriate for children in easy to deliver forms like probiotic liquids or powdered probiotics that you can hide in your child’s pudding cup! A huge portion of our natural immunity to Norovirus will come from intestinal bacteria so make sure you pick up a bottle!
Keep your house clean:
I do not mean that you need to go out and bleach every surface anyone ever comes in contact with. I am not a huge fan of bleach and use it very sparingly. Keep the bathroom towels clean, use natural sanitizing wipes to clean bathroom door knobs and sink faucets. Don’t forget to give a quick swipe to the light switch as well. You don’t need to do this with military precision or spend 3 hours a day sterilizing your home. But, if you are in the bathroom in the morning, you might want to keep these ideas in mind if you have a few spare minutes.
Wash your produce:
Preventing Norovirus infection means looking at all sources of possible contamination. You would be amazed at how many people handle those apples from the time it leaves the tree to the time it ends up in your fruit bowl. Norovirus is a hardy virus and can live on many surfaces, just waiting to find the right home…YOU! Wash your produce with a natural produce wash before you eat it. This lessens the chances that someone in the chain of food production could pass on their intestinal illness!
Teach your kids to keep their hands clean:
Want to know how to prevent Norovirus infection? Prevent it from even entering your home! Teach your children to wash their hands frequently. Make sure that they actually use soap and water! Honestly, how many times have I asked my kids if they washed their hands only to have them say YES and the sink is bone dry! Dirt is healthy but germy hands are NOT. Norovirus can be spread fairly easily so even if YOUR kid washed his hands but little Johnny in the next seat over didn’t, those germs are going to end up on your kid. Remind them to wash their hands after they blow their noses, pick up that chewed up gum from the ground, or just when they walk through the door after school. You do NOT need antibacterial soaps! Putting antimicrobial agents into everything is just making bacteria and viruses stronger.
Investigate natural antiviral remedies:
There are a number of natural antiviral remedies that are effect against a whole range of viruses, including Norovirus. Some of these include immune boosting ingredients like zinc and echinacea, which I have in my cabinet all winter. Another one of my favorites is garlic, which has natural antimicrobial qualities. Make sure you get a supplement that is listed as ‘odor free’ or you will be burping it up all day, honestly! Your other option is to take it at night which makes things a little less offensive to your co workers.
Stop the spread once you are infected:
Just because one child comes home throwing up doesn’t mean everyone has to get sick. Keep one bathroom as the ‘sick room’ if possible and do frequent cleanings of all surfaces. Norovirus can become airborn so change pillow cases to cut down on re-contamination. Research shows that grape seed extract damages the coating on the surface of viruses, including Norovirus, which leaves it unable to adhere to the cells it needs to infect. You can use grape seed extract to clean surfaces like light switches, toilet handles, etc to help sanitize and prevent illness.
There are a lot of ways for preventing Norovirus infection from wreaking havoc on your health this winter. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but taking a few extra precautions NOW is well worth it when you consider the alternatives. And make sure when you DO get better, you repurpose your toothbrush and get a new one.
Have any other tips for preventing Norovirus infection?
Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.