Norovirus: What Seniors and Family Caregivers Should Know

Norovirus is more commonly known as the stomach flu and it can be very dangerous for seniors. Many people write this virus off as a minor illness that only consists of a few days of having an upset stomach, but seniors are more prone to complications and should not ignore this virus. In this article we would like to offer some information for seniors and family caregivers about the symptoms of the Norovirus as well as ways to treat and prevent the virus.

Norovirus is a virus that infects the human gastrointestinal tract. Many people call it the stomach flu but this is not an accurate term because the influenza virus affects the respiratory tract. The Norovirus affects millions of people each year and it is very contagious. Norovirus can be very serious for seniors and potentially even fatal so it is best for seniors to do everything that they can to prevent it. Symptoms of the Norovirus usually seem to appear very suddenly and include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. Some people also experience a fever but many people with the Norovirus will not get a fever so family caregivers should not rule out the Norovirus because of a lack of a fever. 

Norovirus can be spread very easily and is most commonly spread by consuming food or beverages that have come in contact with the virus. It is important for seniors to keep in mind that it can also be spread by coming into contact with someone who has the virus or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching the mouth. Those with the virus can also spread the virus around before they begin to show symptoms and after they are feeling better so seniors should not automatically assume that someone is healthy because they are not showing symptoms. Since there is no way to tell whether or not a person is potentially spreading the virus seniors should wash their hands as frequently as possible, especially before eating just to be on the safe side. Seniors can also carry around hand sanitizer if they are unable to get to a sink but this should not be considered a substitute for washing the hands with soap and water.

When it comes to treating the disease the most important thing is for seniors to get plenty of rest and hydration. Diarrhea and vomiting are very common symptoms of the Norovirus and they can easily cause dehydration which can be dangerous for seniors. Family caregivers should make sure that they provide their loved one with enough liquid to keep them hydrated. Sports drinks are often recommended for those experiencing dehydration because they contain electrolytes so family caregivers should try to provide their loved one with some sports drinks along with plenty of water and juice. Symptoms of dehydration include decreased urination, dry throat and mouth or dizziness when standing up. Family caregivers should watch for any of these symptoms in their loved one and call a doctor if the symptoms persist. Family caregivers should also make sure that they disinfect their loved one’s home while they are sick so that they can recover without being constantly exposed to contaminated surfaces. While seniors are sick they should not have any visitors, especially those that are susceptible to the virus. Well-meaning friends and family members might want to stop by and offer help, but family caregivers should encourage them to return when their loved one is feeling better.

Seniors and family caregivers should keep in mind that there is no vaccine to protect against this virus and the best way to prevent it is through proper sanitation. As previously mentioned, frequent and proper hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent the virus from spreading. Family caregivers can also help their loved ones by maintaining a sanitary living environment, especially after having guests over that might potentially have the virus. Family caregivers can use a bleach based cleaning solution to disinfect surfaces that are commonly touched such as door knobs, light switches and remote controls. It is also very important for family caregivers to make sure that they are properly handling all foods because the virus is commonly spread through contaminated food and beverages.

Seniors and family caregivers should also keep in mind that there is no antibiotic available to cure this virus and the best way to manage it is by preventing it. Following the tips in this article should help seniors remain healthy and avoid the Norovirus. Those that do get the virus should make sure that they get plenty of rest and stay hydrated and contact their doctor if they have any concerns or experience any possible complications.

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