What is rotavirus? — Rotavirus is a virus (germ) that can infect the intestines and cause diarrhea and vomiting. When a virus infects the intestines and causes diarrhea and vomiting, doctors call it “viral gastroenteritis.” In children, rotavirus is a common cause of viral gastroenteritis.
Children can get a rotavirus infection if they:
●Touch an infected person or a surface with the virus on it, and then don’t wash their hands.
●Eat foods or drink liquids with the virus in them. If people with a rotavirus infection don’t wash their hands, they can spread it to food or liquid they touch.
Adults can also get a rotavirus infection, but it is much more common in children.
What are the symptoms of a rotavirus infection? — A rotavirus infection commonly causes:
●Diarrhea that is watery but not bloody
If your child has vomiting or diarrhea, his or her body can lose too much water. Doctors call this “dehydration.” Symptoms of dehydration can include:
●Fewer wet diapers, or dark yellow or brown urine
●No tears when a child cries
●A dry mouth or cracked lips
●Eyes that look sunken in the face
●A “sunken fontanel” (in babies) – A fontanel is a gap between the bones in a baby’s skull. When babies are dehydrated, the fontanel on the top of their head can look or feel caved in.
When should I call my child’s doctor or nurse? — Call your child’s doctor or nurse if your child:
●Has any symptoms of dehydration
●Has diarrhea or vomiting that lasts longer than a few days
●Vomits up blood, has bloody diarrhea, or has severe belly pain
●Hasn’t had anything to drink in a few hours, or can’t keep fluids down
●Hasn’t needed to urinate in the past 6 to 8 hours (in older children), or hasn’t had a wet diaper for 4 to 6 hours (in babies and young children)
●Is urinating much more than usual
Will my child need tests? — Maybe. The doctor or nurse should be able to tell if your child has a rotavirus infection by learning about his or her symptoms and doing an exam.
He or she might also do:
●Lab tests on a sample of your child’s bowel movement
●Blood or urine tests to check for dehydration
How is a rotavirus infection treated? — Most children do not need any treatment, because their symptoms will get better on their own. But it’s important to make sure your child drinks enough fluids so that he or she doesn’t get dehydrated. You’ll know that you are giving your child enough fluids when his or her urine looks pale yellow or clear, or when your baby has a normal amount of wet diapers.
To prevent dehydration, you can:
●Give your baby or young child an “oral rehydration solution,” (sample brand name: Pedialyte). You can buy this in a grocery store or pharmacy. If your child is vomiting, you can try to give him or her a few teaspoons of fluid every few minutes. Oral rehydration solution works better than juice, because juice sometimes makes diarrhea worse.
●Continue to breastfeed your baby, if he or she breastfeeds.
You should NOT give your child medicines to stop diarrhea (anti-diarrhea medicines). These medicines can make the infection last longer.
If your child has a severe infection and gets dehydrated, he or she might need to be treated in the hospital. In the hospital, the doctor might give your child fluids into his or her vein through a tube called an “IV.”
Can a rotavirus infection be prevented? — Yes. Doctors recommend that all babies get a vaccine to prevent the rotavirus infection. Vaccines are treatments that can prevent serious infections. There are 2 main types of rotavirus vaccines. Depending on the type your baby gets, he or she will need either 2 or 3 doses of the vaccine.
If your child has a rotavirus infection, you can prevent spreading the infection by:
●Washing your hands with soap after you change your child’s diaper
●Not changing your child’s diaper near where you prepare food
●Putting diapers in a sealed bag before you throw them out
●Cleaning the diaper changing area with alcohol or with a bleach and water mixture