Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Rotavirus Infection

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Dec 2019| Content last modified Dec 2019
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NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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What is rotavirus infection?

Rotavirus is a common virus that causes diarrhea and throwing up.

The virus isn't dangerous in older children. But in babies and young children, a lot of diarrhea and throwing up can cause serious dehydration (not enough water in the body).

  • Most babies get the rotavirus vaccine (shot) to prevent rotavirus as part of their regular childhood vaccinations

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water is the best way to keep rotavirus and other stomach viruses from spreading

  • Most children get better by resting and drinking fluids, but some very ill children need to get extra fluid through a vein (an IV)

  • Older children and adults also can get rotavirus infection, but symptoms are usually mild

What causes rotavirus infection?

Rotavirus is a virus that spreads when you touch something with infected stool on it, such as a diaper or toy, and then touch your mouth.

What are the symptoms of rotavirus infection?

  • At first, a fever and throwing up

  • Then, watery diarrhea that usually lasts for 5 to 7 days

If children don’t drink enough fluid, they may become dehydrated. Call your child’s doctor right away if your child has diarrhea and any of these warning signs of dehydration:

  • Weakness

  • Low energy

  • Dry mouth

  • Fast heartbeat

How can doctors tell if my child has rotavirus infection?

Although there are many viruses that cause the same symptoms as rotavirus, doctors don't always need to tell them apart. But if they do, doctors test your child's stool for rotavirus.

How do doctors treat rotavirus infection?

Doctors usually treat your child at home with bed rest and fluids to drink.

If your child can't drink enough to keep from being dehydrated, doctors may give your child IV fluids (through a vein).

How can I prevent my child from getting rotavirus infection?

  • Get your children vaccinated for rotavirus as part of their regular childhood vaccinations

  • Wash your hands and your child’s hands often using warm water and soap

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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