When you become a mom, you quickly learn about the not-so-wonderful world of viruses. Take rotavirus, for example. You may not have heard of it before, but your child probably has had it. Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhea in babies and children, affecting almost all children before they turn 5 years of age.
Symptoms of a rotavirus infection are vomiting, nausea, fever, cramps and diarrhea, sometimes accompanied by a cough and a runny nose. Dehydration often comes after the diarrhea. You can tell if your child is dehydrated if she is thirsty, lethargic, irritable, restless, has sunken eyes, dry skin, a dry mouth and tongue, and for infants, a dry diaper.
How Kids Get It
The rotavirus infection is contagious. Kids pick it up most often in the winter and spring at childcare centers and children’s hospitals, according to KidsHealth. Kids typically get it from touching something contaminated with the virus and then putting their hand into their mouth. Children must wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating to help prevent contracting this virus. If your child is in daycare, instruct the daycare worker to wash her hands after changing a diaper because that is also how the rotavirus infection spreads.
If your toddler becomes dehydrated from the rotavirus infection, you may need to take him to the hospital where he can receive intravenous fluids. The doctor can also check to make sure that your child does have the rotavirus infection. If your child has bacteria instead, for example, he might be able to take antibiotics. That is not so with a virus.
To treat your toddler at home, give her plenty of fluids, but avoid fruit juice and soft drinks. You can give your child a rehydration fluid that you can find in a grocery store or drugstore. If your child refuses those drinks, you can give her a sports drink. Also, disinfect toys, food preparation places and the bathroom.
Vaccines For Babies
Two vaccines are available for babies to help prevent the rotavirus infection — the RotaTeq vaccine and the Rotarix vaccine. You can discuss these vaccines with your doctor. An older vaccine for rotavirus was found to increase the risk for bowel obstruction in infants. That vaccine has been off the market since 1999. As of 2010, no such incidences have occurred with RotaTeq and Rotarix. Once a baby is older than 8 months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against giving the vaccine to your child, according to BabyCenter.