Search IconSearch

5 Simple Tips to Prevent Norovirus This Winter

Start with common sense — and wash your hands

woman with stomach cramping

It’s not just on cruise ships. Norovirus — the most common cause of gastroenteritis, or “stomach flu” — is everywhere. And it’s often difficult to prevent.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 15 U.S. residents gets sick with norovirus every year. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and, on occasion, a low-grade fever.

“People come into contact with norovirus through contaminated foods, contaminated water and infected individuals who are preparing and handling food, as well as from person-to-person spread,” says Camille Sabella, MD, Director of the Center for Pediatric Infectious Diseases. It’s common in places such as restaurants, cruise ships and schools, but also at day care centers, nursing homes and other public places.

Norovirus typically peaks between the months of December and April. “That’s very likely related to people being closer together, where there’s an opportunity for person-to-person contact,” Dr. Sabella says.

It’s quite contagious, but there are ways to keep yourself and your family healthy this winter.

1. Wash your hands

It sounds simple because it is. Frequent hand-washing is perhaps the best way to prevent norovirus. Work up a good lather with soap, and wash for at least 20 seconds.

Avoid contact with anyone who’s recently had vomiting or diarrhea if you can. If you’re exposed to a sick person, wash your hands immediately. If you are caring for someone with norovirus, wash your hands every time you come into contact with them. Hand sanitizer also may help as an addition to hand-washing but not as a substitution.

2. Keep your hands away from your face

To get this virus, you basically have to ingest it. That means you should consciously avoid touching your face. If you’ve touched something that’s contaminated with the virus, touching your mouth, nose or eyes before you get a chance to wash your hands makes it easier for the virus to enter your body.

3. Pay attention to your surroundings

You don’t have to be a food inspector to spot bad safety practices. If you’re getting takeout from a restaurant where the food is not being handled appropriately — for instance, if people are directly touching the food without gloves — then find another place to eat.

4. Practice food safety at home

Remember tip No. 1 about hand-washing? It is especially important in the kitchen because norovirus spreads by ingestion. As you prepare food, wash your hands frequently — especially right before serving anything to others. Also, if you have symptoms or know you are sick, stay out of the kitchen and avoid spreading the virus to others.

5. Use appropriate cleaning methods

It might take several days for someone who is infected with norovirus to develop symptoms, Dr. Sabella notes. That means you can’t always keep it out of your house — and norovirus is difficult to contain once it has entered your house.


Still, you can take steps to clean up and prevent its spread. For example, focus on scrubbing any commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs and counter tops. Just remember — the main sources of transmission are contaminated foods and person-to-person contact. That means wiping a doorknob isn’t going to be as effective as your absolute best prevention tip: Wash your hands.

Norovirus can’t be treated with antibiotics, so if you catch it, simply wait it out and rest. “Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with others to keep the virus from spreading,” Dr. Sabella says.


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person in bathroom holding stomach and hand over mouth
June 10, 2024/Digestive
Why Am I Throwing Up? And When To See a Doctor

The stomach flu, food poisoning and motion sickness can make you vomit and may result in dehydration

Teacup of tea and plate of toast
February 2, 2024/Primary Care
What To Eat, Drink and Avoid When You Have the Stomach Flu

Start slowly with clear fluids, and then move to bland, easy-to-digest foods

woman sick in bed and sneezing
July 31, 2023/Primary Care
6 Common Illnesses and How You Can Avoid Spreading Them

Untreated, some infections can be contagious for up to four weeks!

Person sick to stomach and by bathroom toilet to vomit.
Stomach Flu or Food Poisoning? How To Tell

Time of onset and duration of symptoms tell the story

man sick wants to vomit
April 4, 2022/Digestive
Vomiting 101: Why You Throw Up and the Best Way To Recover

Drink small amounts of water for a few hours after throwing up

Bananas Rice Applesauce Toast BRAT diet
November 25, 2021/Digestive
When Should You Follow the BRAT Diet?

If you’ve got a stomach bug, bananas, rice, applesauce and toast are easy on your stomach

cleaning the bathroom sink
How to Clean Up After Norovirus

5 tips to prevent spreading this tough virus

illustration of woman suffering from stomach bugs
January 7, 2020/Digestive
What to Do When Your Stomach Bug Won’t Go Away

You might have a condition called “post-infectious IBS”

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims