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Rotavirus is an infection in children that causes loose stools (diarrhea) and vomiting. Rotavirus usually occurs from late winter through early spring. It affects people of all ages, but mostly children under one year old. Almost all children will have had rotavirus by age five because it is extremely contagious. Rotavirus spreads when a person comes in contact with stool, so it’s very important for you and your child to practice good hand washing to prevent this virus.

How can I tell if my child has rotavirus?

Your child will have these symptoms:

  • Fever (temperature above 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea (usually lasting five to seven days)

Your child may also be less playful and sleep more. Fever and vomiting will usually last for two days, but diarrhea may last for up to one week.

If I think my child has rotavirus, when should I call the doctor?

Because rotavirus is caused by a virus and not by bacteria, antibiotics will not help your child get better. Be sure, however, to call your child's doctor if there is increased vomiting and/or diarrhea, or if your child has no wet diapers for more than eight hours.

Other signs of dehydration include pale skin, dry lips, and sunken eyes. Children can become dehydrated very quickly if vomiting and diarrhea continue, which can cause serious complications and even death.

  • Follow your doctor's instructions.
  • Instead of large meals, give your child smaller, more frequent feedings.
  • Make sure your child is getting enough fluids.
  • An electrolyte replacement such as Pedialyte might be recommended, but be sure to follow the label directions.
  • If your child has a fever, give him or her the appropriate dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol). Do not give your child aspirin.
  • Wash your hands after changing a diaper or touching stool.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
  • Keep follow-up appointments with your doctor.

How is rotavirus treated in the hospital?

Although most children will get better at home, infants who become dehydrated may need to be hospitalized. Your doctor may need to test your child's blood or stool to be sure that it is a virus and not bacteria that's causing the illness. Hospital treatment may include fluids given intravenously (through an IV) and a slow increase of food intake.

Questions to ask your child's doctor about rotavirus

  • How long should I give my child medication, if any? At what times of the day?
  • How should I store the medication? In the refrigerator?
  • When will my child start to feel better?
  • Will I need to bring my child back for a follow-up visit?
  • Should I keep my child home from school or day care?
  • From which activities should I limit my child?
  • Are certain foods or liquids more helpful?
  • Which over-the-counter pain relievers do you recommend?
  • Which over-the-counter medications/preparations are NOT recommended?
  • Which symptoms should I report to the doctor?

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/8/2015...#8275