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Rotavirus Infection in Children
is a virus that causes inflammation of the small intestine. The infection can prevent your child's body from absorbing water and nutrients from food. This can cause severe dehydration. Rotavirus can spread through coughing, food or water, or contact with the bowel movement of an infected person. Rotavirus can remain on objects, such as clothes or toys, for many days. The infection can spread when someone touches an infected object.
Common signs and symptoms:
Symptoms usually begin 1 to 3 days after infection. The rotavirus infection can be spread 2 days before symptoms start, and up to 10 days after. Symptoms normally last from 3 to 8 days and may include more than one of the following:
- Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
- Severe, watery diarrhea that usually starts 1 to 2 days after a fever and vomiting
- Fatigue and irritability
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- Your child's body seems floppy and weak, or he or she does not respond to you at all.
- Your child has trouble breathing or his or her heartbeat is faster than usual.
Seek care immediately if:
- The soft spot on your baby's head is sunken.
- Your child cannot, or will not, drink at all.
- Your child has a dry, sticky mouth, cries without tears, or has sunken-looking eyes.
- Your child is confused or sleepier than usual.
- Your child cannot stop vomiting.
- Your child's hands and feet suddenly become cold.
Call your child's doctor if:
- Your child is drinking less liquid than usual.
- Your child urinates less than usual or your baby has fewer than 6 wet diapers in 1 day.
- Your child has a fever that is not going away or is getting worse.
- Your child has blood in his or her bowel movements.
- Your child has stomach pain, and diarrhea more often.
- Your child's body is puffy and swollen, and his or her face is red.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
may not be needed. Your child may need any of the following if he or she is dehydrated or at risk for dehydration:
- Extra liquids may be needed. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day. Good liquids to drink include water or fruit juice. Your child may need an oral rehydrating solution (ORS). This is a drink that contains the right amount of salt, sugar, and minerals in water. If you breastfeed, continue to breastfeed your baby.
- A nasogastric (NG) tube or IV may be needed if your child cannot drink liquids or the dehydration is severe. Liquids can be given through an NG tube that is put in through the nose and down into the stomach.
Prevent the spread of a rotavirus infection:
- Wash your and your child's hands often. Use soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a gel-based hand sanitizer. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food.
- Ask your child's healthcare provider about the rotavirus vaccine. The vaccine is given routinely to children. Your child will get doses at 2 and 4 months. A third dose may be needed at 6 months. The final dose should be given no later than 8 months of age.
- Clean items that may be infected. Use chlorine-based disinfectants to clean surfaces, toilets, toys, and shared items in your home.
- Have your child stay home while he or she is sick. Keep your child away from others for as long as his or her healthcare provider says you should. Do not let your child return to school or daycare until the provider says it is safe.
Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
Learn more about Rotavirus Infection in Children (Ambulatory Care)
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