Many illnesses cause diarrhea. So although rotavirus is often diagnosed based on symptoms and a physical exam, a stool sample analysis might be used to confirm the diagnosis.
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 or Enfalyte — 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.
If your baby is sick, offer small amounts of liquid. If you're breastfeeding, 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 that don't contain added sugar, such as whole-grain breads or crackers, lean meat, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables.
Plenty of liquids are important, too, including an oral rehydration fluid. Avoid soda, apple juice, dairy products other than yogurt, and sugary foods, which can make diarrhea worse.
Avoid anything that may irritate your stomach, including 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 diseases 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. Resume eating a healthy diet, restricting sugars and fats, as soon as possible. If your child is sick, follow the same approach.
If you're breastfeeding 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.
Apr 28, 2021
- Epidemiology and prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases: Rotavirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/rota. Accessed Jan. 28, 2021.
- Burnet E, et al. Real-world effectiveness of rotavirus vaccines, 2016-19: A literature review and meta-analysis. Lancet Global Health. 2020; doi:10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30262-X.
- O'Ryan MG. Acute viral gastroenteritis in children in resource-rich countries: Management and prevention. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Jan. 28, 2021.
- Rotavirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/rotavirus/index. Accessed Feb. 1, 2019.
- Diarrhea. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diarrhea#children. Accessed Feb. 1, 2019.
- Fever in children. American College of Emergency Physicians. https://www.emergencyphysicians.org/article/pediatrics/fever-in-children. Accessed Jan. 30, 2021.
- What to do in a medical emergency: Vomiting and diarrhea. American College of Emergency Physicians. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/emergency-101/vomiting-and-diarrhea. Accessed Feb. 1, 2019.
- Kimberlin DW, et al. Rotavirus infections. In: Red Book Online. 31st ed. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2018. https://redbook.solutions.aap.org. Accessed Jan. 29, 2019.
- Somers MJ. Treatment of hypovolemia (dehydration) in children. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 4, 2019.
- Matson DO. Rotavirus vaccines for infants. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Jan. 30, 2019.
- AskMayoExpert. Rotavirus. Mayo Clinic; 2018.