What is Rotavirus?
Rotavirus is a virus that causes diarrhea. Before developing the rotavirus vaccine, many children were infected by this contagious virus at least once before 5 years of age. It can be treated at home with adequate fluids to prevent dehydration and maintain good hygiene.
What are the symptoms of Rotavirus?
The incubation period for rotavirus infection is about two days after being exposed to the virus. The initial symptoms are fever and vomiting, which is then followed by four to eight days of watery diarrhea. Rotavirus infection can also cause abdominal pain. It can even lead to death if there is untreated and severe dehydration. The symptoms of rotavirus vary in children and adults.
Some of the symptoms in children include:
Of all the symptoms, dehydration is the most concerning in children, as it is caused by the fact that this age group is more liable to a drop in fluid and electrolytes through vomiting and diarrhea because they have less body weight. It is important to look out for indications of dehydration in children , like:
- Dry mouth
- Cool skin
- Absence of tears when crying
- Sunken eyes
- Decreased frequency in urination
The symptoms of rotavirus in adults are as follows:
- Excessive fatigue
- High fever
- Pain in the abdomen
Healthy adults experience the symptoms to a smaller degree, while some can be asymptomatic also.
What are the causes of rotavirus?
Rotavirus germs are present in the infected person’s stool at least two days before symptoms and are seen for up to ten days after the symptoms reduce. It can spread to other surfaces through hand-to-mouth contact for the duration of this time, although the infected person may not display symptoms.
If the person having this viral infection does not wash their hands after using the washroom or if their child has the virus, changing the child’s diaper or helping them use the washroom can lead to the spread of the virus to any object touched, including food, toys, and utensils, if hands are not cleaned after handling fecal matter .
An infection can also spread if a person touches their mouth after coming in contact with the infected person or a contaminated object.
What are the risk factors for rotavirus?
Rotavirus infections are most common in children aging 3 months to 3 years. Elderly adults and those looking after young children have a growing risk of infection as well.
What are the complications of rotavirus?
Severe diarrhea may result in dehydration, especially in young children, and if not treated, dehydration can grow into a life-threatening condition irrespective of the cause.
What is the treatment for rotavirus?
There is no specific treatment for rotavirus infection, but the management of symptoms and, even more importantly, management of dehydration can help. The key is to stay hydrated and comfortable while the virus works its way out of the system. Minimizing the spread of rotavirus also involves proper washing of hands after using the washroom or after helping the child use it and after changing the diaper. In addition, some home remedies can be tried, including:
- Drinking adequate amounts of fluids
- Consuming soups and other liquids
- Taking Oral rehydration solutions
- Keeping away from sugary foods or juices and fatty foods as they can make diarrhea worse
- Following a balanced diet so that adequate nutrition is maintained throughout the illness
What vaccine can be taken for rotavirus?
Hospitalizations and deaths from viral infection have been reduced significantly ever since the vaccine was invented. To prevent from getting infected by rotavirus and to reduce its complications, parents should make sure that children get the vaccine that comes in two forms:
Rotarix– The vaccine is administered in two doses to infants at ages 2 months and 4 months.
RotaTeq– The vaccine is administered by mouth in three doses, often at 2, 4, and 6 months.
Children with a history of severe combined immunodeficiency or those who are already seriously ill, shouldn’t take the vaccine.
The vaccine can have rare side effects such as:
- Intussusception (bowel blockage that causes acute pain in the abdomen, bloody stools, and vomiting, but these are a rarity)
When should you consult a doctor?
Consult the doctor if a child shows the following symptoms:
- Frequent vomiting
- Frequent diarrhea that lasts for 24 hours or more
- Records a temperature of 102 F (38.9 C) or higher
- If they are tired, seem irritable, or have pain
- A lack of ability to keep fluids down
- Reduction in the frequency of urination (or less wet diapers)
- Displays signs or symptoms of dehydration which includes dry mouth, crying with no tears rolling down, unusual sleepiness, or lack of responsiveness
Consult the doctor if an adult shows the following symptoms:
- Cannot keep liquids down for 24 hours
- Suffer from diarrhea for more than two days
- Carry blood in vomit or bowel movements
- Passes a very small amount of urine or does not urinate
- Records a temperature higher than 103 F (39.4 C)
- Displays signs or symptoms of dehydration which includes excessive thirst, dry mouth, severe weakness, dizziness on standing, or lightheadedness
How can rotavirus be prevented?
The best way to prevent rotavirus, particularly in young children, are by vaccines. The virus can also be prevented from spreading by regular washing of hands, especially before consuming meals. Children may have the infection more than once; however, vaccination can prevent the severity of the condition.
The serious complication of rotavirus is severe dehydration, the most common reason for rotavirus-related deaths globally. Children are the most vulnerable, and to help prevent complications, medical attention should be sought with a pediatrician at the earliest if the child displays any symptoms of rotavirus.