Rotavirus Explained

Everything you need to know about your child's risk for rotavirus

(RxWiki News) Written By Anyssa Garza, PharmD, BCMAS

Rotavirus spreads easily among infants and young children. Is your child at risk?

The virus rotavirus causes gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the lining of the intestine. Symptoms include severe diarrhea and vomiting — both of which can lead to dehydration. Some children may also experience fever and stomach pain.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rotavirus is the world's most common cause of diarrhea in infants and children.

Rotavirus Explained

Once the virus is spread, it takes about two days to produce symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. The vomiting and diarrhea may last from three to eight days.

Some children experience such severe diarrhea that they lose too much fluid and become dehydrated. They may have to be admitted to the hospital to receive fluids.

There is currently no treatment for rotavirus. You can usually treat the virus at home by giving your child extra fluids. This will help prevent dehydration.

Symptoms of dehydration include not urinating as much, dry mouth and a feeling of dizziness upon standing up.

You may notice your child has few or no tears when they cry. This can also be a sign of dehydration.

Seek medical attention if you notice any of the following symptoms in your child: high fever, poop that contains blood or pus or appears black, weakness, fatigue or signs of dehydration.

Is Your Child at Risk?

Rotavirus is spread easily among children by accidentally getting poop (stool) into their mouth from another child who has rotavirus. The virus can be transferred through a contaminated object, food or liquid.

This can easily happen because children often share toys while at day care or school.

Children are more likely to get rotavirus from December to June (winter to spring).

How to Protect Your Child from Rotavirus

You can protect your child from rotavirus by having them receive the rotavirus vaccine. Experts estimate that between 85 and 98 percent of children who get the rotavirus vaccine will be protected from severe rotavirus disease. Currently, two vaccines are available.

The good news is that the vaccine comes in the form of drops that are put into the infant’s mouth instead of an injection.

There has been some information about the vaccine possibly causing a blockage in the bowels. This is called intussusception. It is important to note that this risk appears to affect 1 in every 20,000 infants to 1 in every 100,000 infants after vaccination.

Despite this small risk, the CDC strongly recommends that infants receive the rotavirus vaccine. The agency believes the benefits outweigh the risks.

Most health insurance plans will cover the cost of the vaccine. If you do not have health insurance or if your insurance does not cover this vaccine, check to see if your child is eligible for the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program by visiting the VFC website. Speak to your child's health care provider about the rotavirus vaccine.

How to Prevent Dehydration

To prevent dehydration from rotavirus, be sure to have your kids drink plenty of liquids.

One solution is an oral rehydration solution (ORS), which can be found at the drug store. Some brands include Pedialyte and Enfamil. Some drug stores will carry their own generic brands. Ask your local pharmacist any questions you have about these products.

Reach out to your health care provider to ask about reducing your child's risk for rotavirus.

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Review Date: 
January 3, 2019