Rotavirus is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in children. As a matter of fact, most kids will have had rotavirus by the time they’re five years old. An advanced rotavirus infection, called rotavirus gastroenteritis, causes severe diarrhea in infants and children, often leading to dehydration. While there are many cases of rotavirus each year in the United States, very few lead to death.
Rotavirus in children usually begins with a fever. Watery diarrhea and vomiting follow, and usually last for about three to eight days. Rotavirus symptoms may include abdominal pain as well. Rotavirus in adults is usually milder; some may experience no symptoms at all.
Rotavirus may run its course with no complications. However, be sure to call your pediatrician if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Extreme lethargy or pain
- Severe or bloody diarrhea
- Signs of dehydration such as crying without tears, dry mouth, little to no urination, excessive sleepiness or unresponsiveness
- Temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Vomiting for more than three hours.
The extremely contagious rotavirus is passed through the stool of those infected with it. Outbreaks occur most often in the winter and spring months. Frequent hand washing, particularly after using the bathroom, will cut down on the spread of rotavirus.
In order to prevent rotavirus in children, you’ll want to get your child a rotavirus vaccine. There are two brands available. One brand of the rotavirus vaccine is given at 2 and 4 months. The other requires a third vaccination at the age of 6 months in addition. Side effects of the vaccine are rare, but may include:
- Mild diarrhea
Treatment of Rotavirus in Children
Rotavirus cannot be treated with antibiotics, and there is no specific medical treatment for the virus. Monitoring your child for dehydration is of most importance in providing care. Some suggestions on how to do this are the following:
- Be sure your child drinks plenty of water and other fluids. In cases of severe diarrhea, offer an oral rehydration liquid to replace lost fluids, such as Pedialyte. If intravenous fluids are needed, hospitalization will be required.
- Be sure your child is up to date on the rotavirus vaccination as well.
- For infants, give small amounts of liquids at frequent intervals. If you breast feed, do so often. Oral rehydration liquid can be given in bottles. Don’t water down formula.
- In older children, encourage rest and serve bland foods like toast and crackers. Oral rehydration fluids can be used for children as well. Avoid apple juice, dairy products, or sugary foods, all of which can worsen diarrhea.
- Remember that good hygiene habits, such as washing hands frequently, are key to preventing the spread of rotavirus. It’s especially important to wash hands after using the restroom, helping a child in the bathroom, or changing diapers.
Klein, J. (2009). Infections: Rotavirus. Retrieved December 24, 2009, from the Kids Health Web site: http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/stomach/rotavirus.html#.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (n.d.) Rotavirus vaccination. Retrieved December 24, 2009, from the Centers for Disease Control Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/rotavirus/default.htm#vacc.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.) Rotavirus. Retrieved December 24, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/rotavirus/DS00783.