Rotavirus is a common childhood infection that nearly all children suffer from before the age of 5. While the infection generally resolves without medical intervention, children with compromised immune systems may suffer severe symptoms leading to hospitalization and death. There are various forms of the virus, none of which are treatable with antibiotics. Adults may also suffer from rotavirus infections, but the effects are generally milder for adults.
Symptoms of a Rotavirus Infection in Children
The most common symptoms of rotavirus are cramping, diarrhea, nausea and fever. Diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration, especially when paired with nausea and vomiting. About 55,000 children are hospitalized for dehydration alone as a result of a Rotavirus infection.
Is the Virus Contagious?
The Rotavirus infection is highly contagious. Outbreaks may occur in schools or daycares, especially in winter and spring months with the infection is rampant. The condition is passed via stool, so children need to wash their hands after every bathroom break. Rotavirus can live outside the body, so infected children may spread the virus to other children through touch and use of community items like toys and books.
Preventing Rotavirus Infection
There are two approved vaccinations available to lessen the chance of contraction or severity of a rotavirus infection – RotaTeq and Rotarix. These vaccinations are no foolproof, so children and adults need to practice good hand washing techniques to prevent spread of rotavirus.
Treating a Rotavirus Infection
There is no medical cure for the rotavirus infection, but medical personnel can prevent severe side effects like diarrhea, vomiting, fever and dehydration with supportive care. Parents are often left to care for children with mild cases of rotavirus, which means controlling the spread of infection in the home is highly important.
Electrolyte drinks are often given to children suffering from vomiting and diarrhea. Aspirin-free fever reducing medications can be given as directed. Avoid 100-percent juices and soft drinks, which may increase the severity of diarrhea. Your child should rest often and eat small, frequent meals to ease nausea.
When to Alert Your Physician
Many parents rush straight to the pediatrician at the first signs of rotavirus, but this is not typically necessary. The body can fight off the virus in due time and there are no medical treatments to speed up recovery. In severe cases where children suffer from dehydration, medical attention and IV fluids may be necessary.