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Rotavirus is an infection in children that causes loose stools (diarrhea) and vomiting. Occurring most commonly in late winter through early spring, rotavirus affects all ages, but predominantly children under 1 year of age. Almost all children will have had it by age 5 because it is extremely contagious. Rotavirus spreads when a person comes in contact with stool, so good hand washing by both you and your child is essential in preventing 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.

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 persist, causing 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 your child the appropriate dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol). Do not give your child aspirin.
  • Wash hands after diaper changing or touching stool.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.
  • Keep follow-up appointments with you 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)
  • A slow increase of food intake

Questions to ask your child’s doctor

  • For how long and at what times of the day should I give my child medication, if any?
  • 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: 10/5/2012...#8275