Diagnosis

Rotavirus is often diagnosed based on symptoms and a physical exam. A stool sample may be analyzed in a lab to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

There's no specific treatment for a rotavirus infection. Antibiotics and antivirals won't help a rotavirus infection. Usually, the infection resolves within three to seven days.

Preventing dehydration is the biggest concern. To prevent dehydration while the virus runs its course, drink plenty of fluids. If your child has severe diarrhea, ask your doctor about offering an oral rehydration fluid such as Pedialyte — especially if the diarrhea lasts longer than a few days.

For children, a rehydration fluid can replace lost minerals more effectively than can water or other liquids. Severe dehydration may require intravenous fluids in the hospital.

Anti-diarrheal medications aren't recommended for a rotavirus infection.

Lifestyle and home remedies

If your baby is sick, offer small amounts of liquid. If you're breast-feeding, let your baby nurse.

If your baby drinks formula, offer a small amount of an oral rehydration fluid or regular formula. Don't dilute your baby's formula.

If your older child isn't feeling well, encourage him or her to rest. Offer bland foods, such as soda crackers and toast.

Plenty of liquids are important, too, including an oral rehydration fluid (Enfamil Enfalyte, Pedialyte, others). Avoid apple juice, dairy products and sugary foods, which can make a child's diarrhea worse.

If you're struggling with diarrhea or vomiting, take it easy. Suck on ice chips or take small sips of water or clear sodas, such as ginger ale, or broths. Eat bland foods.

Avoid anything that may irritate your stomach, including dairy products, fatty or highly seasoned foods, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.

Preparing for your appointment

If you or your child needs to see a doctor, you'll likely see your primary care provider first. If there are questions about the diagnosis, your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist or an infectious disease specialist.

What you can do

Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. Some questions you might want to ask your doctor or your child's doctor include:

  • What's the likely cause of these symptoms? Are there other possible causes?
  • Is there a need for tests?
  • What's the best treatment approach? Are there any alternatives?
  • Is there a need to take any medicine?
  • How can I ease the symptoms?

What to expect from your doctor

Some questions the doctor may ask include:

  • When did symptoms begin?
  • Have the symptoms been continuous, or do they come and go?
  • How severe are the symptoms?
  • Does anything seem to improve the symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen symptoms?

What you can do in the meantime

Drink plenty of fluids. Stick with bland foods to reduce stress on your digestive system. If your child is sick, follow the same approach — offer plenty of fluids and bland food.

If you're breast-feeding or using formula, continue to feed your child as usual. Ask your child's doctor if giving your child an oral rehydration fluid is appropriate.