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Rotavirus Infection in Children

Rotavirus is a germ that infects the small intestines. Rotavirus infection often occurs in the winter months. It is very common, and is the leading cause of diarrhea in children. It is also very contagious. Only a few tiny germs are needed to pass on the infection. Most rotavirus infections are not serious and last only a few days. But they put children at risk for dehydration, a loss of water from the body.

 Common Symptoms of Rotavirus InfectionBoy and girl wash hands.

  • Fever over 100.5°F

  • Watery diarrhea

  • Stomach pain or cramping

  • Nausea and vomiting


Most cases of rotavirus get better without treatment. (Antibiotics are NOT helpful against viral infections.) The goal of treatment is to make the child comfortable and to prevent dehydration. These tips can help:

  • Do not give your child over-the-counter medications to stop the diarrhea. These can be dangerous.

  • Be sure the child gets plenty of rest.

  • Have the child sip water or suck on ice chips, if possible.

  • Give the child 3 teaspoons of an oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte, Infalyte, or Kaoelectrolyte) every 10 minutes until vomiting stops and the child is able to keep down larger amounts of liquid. Avoid “sports drinks,” which don’t have the right mix of water, sugar, and mineral salts, and may make symptoms worse.

  • Do not give the child food until he or she has not vomited for several hours. When the child is able to eat, start with bland foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.

  • Do not give the child any medications unless they have been recommended by your doctor.

  • Avoid giving your child dairy products, which can make vomiting and diarrhea worse.

Preventing Rotavirus Infection

These steps may help lessen the chances that you or your child will get or pass on a rotavirus infection:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap often, especially after going to the bathroom, diapering your child, and before preparing, serving, or eating food.

  • Wash soiled clothing promptly.

  • Disinfect any areas that may have become contaminated with a chlorine-bleach-based cleanser.

  • Use diapers with waterproof outer covers or use plastic pants.

  • Keep your sick child home from childcare.

  • Prevent contact between the child and those who are sick.

  • Keep food preparation areas clean.

  • Have your child wash his or her hands often, especially before eating.

Get Medical Help Right Away If the Child:

  • Fever:

    • Is an infant under 3 months old, with a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

    • Is a child 3 to 36 months, with a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0°C) or higher

    • Is a child of any age who has a temerature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher

    • Has a fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older

    • Has had a seizure caused by the fever

  • Has been vomiting and having diarrhea for more than 6 hours.

  • Has bloody diarrhea.

  • Is lethargic.

  • Has severe stomach pain.

  • Can’t keep even small amounts of liquid down.

  • Shows signs of dehydration, such as very dark or very little urine, excessive thirst, dry mouth, or dizziness.


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