Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children every year in the U.S., with over 3 million cases each year and 55,000 hospitalizations of children under 5 years-old for dehydration resulting from the infection. Rotavirus infections occur most often in the winter months.
Almost all children contract the virus before the age of 5. Typically, the older the child the milder the infection, but adults can also contract the virus. A rotavirus infection is most dangerous for infants because their smaller body weight makes them more susceptible to dehydration.
Signs of a rotavirus infection include fever, nausea and vomiting, followed by abdominal cramps and frequent, watery diarrhea. Symptoms can last from three to five days. The infection is highly contagious and it is transferred through stool. A person is contagious before and after symptoms are present and rotavirus can remain active on human hands for about 4 hours, 10 days on hard dry surfaces and weeks on wet areas.
Fever and vomiting usually end after two to three days, but the diarrhea can last up to nine days. Severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration. If a child becomes moderately or severely dehydrated, he or she may need to be treated professionally through intravenous fluids, but older children can be treated at home.
Your child’s doctor may want to take blood or stool samples to make sure that your child has a rotavirus infection and not a bacterial infection. Because antibiotics do not work against viral illnesses, your doctor will not prescribe an antibiotic.
There is no specific treatment for rotavirus, but to prevent dehydration, your doctor may recommend an oral rehydration solution, especially if your child's diarrhea lasts longer than a few days. Ask your doctor about what your child should eat or drink. Children with mild diarrhea who are not dehydrated should continue to eat normally, but should be given extra fluids to prevent dehydration, but keep in mind that sugary fruit juices and soft drinks can worsen diarrhea and should be avoided. Do not give your child over-the-counter medicine used to treat vomiting or diarrhea unless your doctor recommends them.
If your child has diarrhea it is important to watch for:
Signs of dehydration. Symptoms include a decrease in urine, no tears when crying, high fever, dry mouth, weight loss, extreme thirst, listlessness, and sunken eyes.
Blood in your child’s stool
Fever over 102°F
As with any illness, you can reduce your risk of becoming infected by frequently washing hands, cleaning contaminated surfaces promptly and washing soiled clothing.