Rotavirus Infection in Children

Rotavirus Infection in Children

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Rotavirus Infection in Children

Rotavirus is a germ that infects the small intestines. Rotavirus infection often occurs in the winter and spring (December through June) months. It is very common, and is the leading cause of diarrhea in children. It is also very contagious and is mostly spread by hands, toys, food, and water. Only a few tiny germs are needed to pass on the infection. It takes almost 48 hours for the symptoms to appear and the illness can last up to 8 days. Most rotavirus infections are not serious and last only a few days. But they put children at risk for dehydration, a loss of water from the body.

 Common Symptoms of Rotavirus Infection

Young girl washing her hands at a bathroom sink

  • Fever

  • Watery diarrhea

  • Stomach pain or cramping

  • Nausea and vomiting


Most cases of rotavirus get better without treatment. (Antibiotics are NOT helpful against viral infections.) The goal of treatment is to make the child comfortable and to prevent dehydration. These tips can help:

  • Do not give your child over-the-counter medications to stop the diarrhea. These can be dangerous.

  • Be sure the child gets plenty of rest.

  • Have the child sip water or suck on ice chips, if possible.

  • If the child appears dehydrated, give the child 1-2 teaspoons of an oral rehydration solution every 10 minutes until vomiting stops and the child is able to keep down larger amounts of liquid. Avoid “sports drinks,” which don’t have the right mix of water, sugar, and mineral salts, and may make symptoms worse.

  • Do not give the child food until he or she has not vomited for several hours. When the child is able to eat, return to his or her regular diet, as tolerated. Restricting food or limiting the diet may cause the diarrhea to last longer than expected.

  • Do not give the child any medications unless they have been recommended by your child's health care provider.

  • Some children may develop a temporary intolerance to dairy products after a diarrheal illness. If dairy seems to make your child's symptoms worse, you may need to avoid them temporarily.

Preventing Rotavirus Infection

These steps may help lessen the chances that you or your child will get or pass on a rotavirus infection:

  • Rotavirus vaccine (85-95% effective)

    • ???RotaTeq® (RV5) - Three doses given orally at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months; or

    • Rotarix® (RV1 - Two doses given orally at ages 2 months and 4 months

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap often, especially after going to the bathroom, diapering your child, and before preparing, serving, or eating food.

  • Wash soiled clothing promptly.

  • Disinfect any areas that may have become contaminated with a chlorine-bleach-based cleanser.

  • Use diapers with waterproof outer covers or use plastic pants.

  • Keep your sick child home from childcare. Discuss this with your child's health care provider.

  • Prevent contact between the child and those who are sick.

  • Keep food preparation areas clean.

  • Have your child wash his or her hands often, especially before eating.

Get Medical Help Right Away If the Child:

  • Fever:

    • Is an infant under 3 months old, with a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

    • In a child of any age who has a repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher

    • Has a fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older

    • Has had a seizure caused by the fever

  • Has been vomiting and having diarrhea for more than 6 hours.

  • Has bloody diarrhea.

  • Is lethargic.

  • Has severe stomach pain.

  • Can’t keep even small amounts of liquid down.

  • Shows signs of dehydration, such as very dark or very little urine, excessive thirst, dry mouth, or dizziness.