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Rotavirus - Topic Overview

How is rotavirus diagnosed?

Your doctor will probably diagnose your child with rotavirus infection based on his or her symptoms. The time of year also is an important clue. If your child has diarrhea and other symptoms during the winter or early spring (about November through April), your doctor will often suspect rotavirus as the cause.

A test of stool can be done to confirm a diagnosis. This kind of test is not needed unless your child has other health conditions that make it important to know the exact cause of symptoms.

How is it treated?

It is most important to help keep your child comfortable and prevent dehydration.

Hold your child as much as he or she wants. Keep your child in comfortable clothes, and change his or her diaper or underpants as needed. Your child may get a diaper rash. To treat diaper rash, you may need to use warm washcloths to wipe your child's bottom and creams to help prevent soreness. In some cases, you may want to hold your baby and rinse his or her bottom in running bath water to clean the area well.

Don't give your child any over-the-counter medicines unless you've checked with the doctor first.

To prevent dehydration, your doctor may recommend a rehydration drink designed for babies and young children, such as Pedialyte. This may be especially helpful if your child's diarrhea lasts longer than a few days. Rehydration drinks help replace fluids and electrolytes. Plain water doesn't provide necessary nutrients or electrolytes and may not be absorbed when your child has diarrhea. Rehydration drinks do not make diarrhea go away faster, but they can prevent serious dehydration.

Do not give your baby or young child rehydration drinks for adults or sports drinks, such as Gatorade. These drinks do not have the proper balance of nutrients and electrolytes for small children.

Your doctor may suggest probiotics for your child. They are bacteria that help keep the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines. For more information, see the topic Probiotics.

A baby or young child needs to be treated in a hospital if dehydration becomes severe. Call 911 or go to the emergency room if your baby has signs of severe dehydration, which include:

  • Being very sleepy and hard to wake up.
  • A very dry mouth and very dry eyes.
  • Being limp and floppy like a rag doll.
  • No wet diapers (a dry diaper) for 12 or more hours.
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