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Rotavirus Infection In Children


What is a rotavirus infection?

Rotavirus 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.

How is rotavirus spread?

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.

What increases my child's risk for a rotavirus infection?

Rotavirus is most common in children younger than 5 years, especially 3 months to 2 years old. Your child is also at risk if he goes to daycare or travels often. A weak immune system, such as from cancer, HIV, or organ or bone marrow transplants, can also increase his risk.

What are the signs and symptoms of a rotavirus infection?

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:

  • Fever
  • Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
  • Severe, watery diarrhea that usually starts 1 to 2 days after a fever and vomiting
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Headaches

How is a rotavirus infection diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child and ask about his symptoms. If your child has diarrhea, tell his healthcare provider when it started, and how often it occurs. He may check your child for signs of dehydration. A sample of your child's bowel movement may be sent to a lab to be tested for infection.

How is a rotavirus infection treated?

A rotavirus infection may go away without treatment. Your child may need any of the following if he is dehydrated or at risk for dehydration:

  • Extra liquids may be needed. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day. If you breastfeed, continue to breastfeed your baby. 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.
  • A nasogastric (NG) tube or IV may be needed if your child cannot drink liquids or his dehydration is severe. Liquids can be given through an NG tube that is put in through the nose and down into the stomach.

What can I do to 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 is sick. Keep your child away from others for as long as his healthcare provider says you should. Do not let your child return to school or daycare until the provider says it is safe.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child's body seems floppy and weak, or he does not respond to you at all.
  • Your child has trouble breathing or his heartbeat is faster than usual.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • 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 bowel movements.
  • Your child has stomach pain, and more frequent diarrhea.
  • Your child's body is puffy and swollen, and his face is red.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.