Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in young children. It can cause your child to lose fluids quickly (dehydration).
In fact, more than 50,000 children are admitted to U.S. hospitals with the virus each year. Most children are infected with rotavirus by age 5.
This intestinal tract infection can affect your child for up to nine days. Because this is a virus, it will have to run its course. Antibiotics (medicine) will only work against bacteria (another type of germ).
Rotavirus is a winter virus, usually occurring from November through April. It is easy to catch and hard to kill.
Symptoms of rotavirus
The symptoms of rotavirus are:
- watery diarrhea
- abdominal pain.
How to know your child has rotavirus
Your child's health care provider may want to check a stool sample.
How to treat rotavirus
Your health care provider may suggest you give your child an oral rehydration solution (Pedialyte® or Infalyte®). This will help return needed fluids, salts and minerals to your child's body. Follow the package for your child's age. Do not give your child only oral rehydration solution for more than 24 hours.
If your child is vomiting, give the rehydration solution in small amounts — two to three teaspoons every five minutes — until the vomiting stops. Slowly increase the solution according to package directions.
Give your child small amounts of solid food often once she has not vomited for eight hours.
If your child is dehydrated and is admitted to the hospital, she may get fluids through an IV (intravenous) line in her arm.
How to prevent spreading rotavirus
Rotavirus is passed through stools. Rotavirus can be spread before or after diarrhea. An infected child can pass the virus by touching an object or food. Another child can get the virus by putting that object or food into her mouth.
A day care is a likely place for rotavirus to spread. The virus can "live" for hours on hands and days on objects. Your child will have this virus in her stool for
up to six weeks even after she is well.
The best ways to prevent catching or spreading rotavirus:
- Teach your child to wash her hands after going to the bathroom and before eating. If you have a small child, wash her hands with a small amount of plain soap and water.
- Teach your child to keep fingers and other objects out of her mouth. If you have a baby who is teething, give her a teething ring or wash her hands often.
- Request that anyone who comes in contact with your baby or child wash his or her hands first.
- Wash toys that come in contact with your child's mouth.
When to call your health care provider
Call your health care provider for an appointment if your child: