Rotavirus: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

    Rotavirus: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

    Rotavirus is a contagious infection common in infants and children. The condition most commonly causes diarrhea and dehydration.

    In most cases, diarrhea and dehydration caused by the condition can be treated at home. But if your baby experiences chronic loose bowel movements or dehydration, it is advised to seek immediate medical help.

    Looking at the effects on infants, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends to include rotavirus vaccines in all national immunisation programmes. WHO considers this vaccine a priority in sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asian countries.

    The WHO recommends the first dose of rotavirus vaccine to be administered as soon as the baby completes six weeks of age along with DTP vaccination.

    Ensure your child gets vaccinated as severe dehydration or diarrhea from this virus can be life-threatening.

    Rotavirus vaccines

    Currently, there are two types of rotavirus vaccines available for infants such as:

    • Rotarix® (RV1) – It is given in 2 doses at ages 2 months and 4 months
    • RotaTeq® (RV5) – It is given in 3 doses at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months

    Ensure your child receives all the doses of rotavirus vaccine before he/she turns 8 months old. Both vaccines are given orally.

    Symptoms in children

    As children and infants are more likely to experience symptoms, parents can notice the change in their child’s behavior within a day or two. The symptoms can develop within two days after being exposed to this virus.

    As said earlier, rotavirus can cause diarrhea and severe loose bowel movements—this is a common and major symptom. Other symptoms your child may experience are as follows:

    • Dehydration
    • Severe fatigue
    • High fever
    • Abdominal pain
    • Vomiting
    • Irritability

    Dehydration is a major concern in children. Therefore, ensure your child drinks plenty of water to cover up the loss of fluid and electrolytes. Below are the symptoms of dehydration that your child might experience due to this harmful virus:

    • Sunken eyes
    • Reduced urination frequency
    • Lack of tears when crying
    • Dry mouth
    • Cool skin



    The rotavirus belongs to Reoviridae – a family of viruses that causes respiratory and stomach illnesses.

    Commonly, this virus is spread through people’s stool. If your child gets the particles of this virus in his/her mouth, it can make your child sick. This can happen when:

    • Your child touches contaminated objects or surfaces and then puts their fingers in their mouth.
    • A child eats contaminated food.
    • Your child’s hands are contaminated with poop and they put them in their mouth.

    This harmful virus spreads easily in babies and young children. Therefore, ensure you, your family members and caregivers take care of the child properly and prevent him/her from coming in contact with any things that may lead to the condition.

    Risk Factors

    Rotavirus is a virus that spreads easily and causes gastroenteritis – inflammation of intestines and stomach.

    Compared to adults, infants and young kids are at higher risk of getting infected by this virus. If juniors experience severe dehydration, they might need to be hospitalized for a few days. Ensure you do not ignore the treatment of rotavirus as the virus can cause early death.

    Ensure you protect your child from this virus. Get rotavirus vaccination as and when designated.

    Although this virus can affect people at any age, people who are at risk of this infection are:

    • Senior people
    • People with a weak immune system


    Ensure you visit the doctor’s clinic if there is no change in your child’s condition. Your doctor or a pediatrician will perform a physical examination and recommend a stool test to detect rotavirus.

    Enzyme immunoassay can detect the virus during the stool analysis.

    According to the test results, your doctor or pediatrician will suggest suitable treatment or home remedies.


    There are no specific treatments or medicines that can treat rotavirus at once. However, you can treat the major symptoms of this virus – diarrhea and dehydration. Follow these few tips to treat dehydration and diarrhea:

    • Increase consumption of fluids with electrolytes (especially important for children)
    • Eat bland foods, such as white toast and saltines
    • Eat broth-based soups
    • Avoid sugary or fatty foods as these can make diarrhea worse
    • Drink plenty of water and fluids

    Ensure you visit the doctor’s clinic immediately if your child experiences:

    • Fever of 104°F (40°C) or higher
    • Constant vomiting
    • Inability to keep fluids in the body
    • Severe diarrhea

    Lifestyle Changes

    Encourage your child to rest as much as he/she can, if your child is not well. Feed bland foods that do not contain added sugar like vegetables, yoghurt, whole-grain bread, fruits, or lean meat.

    Ensure your child intakes plenty of water and fluid. Prevent them from consuming cold drinks, apple juice, soda and dairy products except for yogurt. Food that contains excess sugar can make diarrhea worse.

    Home Remedies

    You can use these home remedies to treat dehydration and diarrhea caused by rotavirus. But please remember not to give juice to babies under a year old and to consult your child’s pediatrician before trying any home remedies or medication.

    • Buttermilk: Buttermilk is a healthy remedy to fight dehydration. Buttermilk is a rich source of potassium and magnesium that rehydrates the body.
    • Coconut water: Coconut water is another beneficial remedy for dehydration and diarrhea. It is a rich source of potassium and sodium that helps compensate for the loss.
    • Cranberry juice: Cranberry juices have water content and also contains natural sugar and salt that helps dehydration. This juice is also a rich source of antioxidants that helps to fight rotavirus.
    • Orange juice: Orange juice not only replenishes the lost electrolytes but also provides rich potassium and magnesium.
    • Barley water: Barley water is loaded with antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that restore the nutrients in the body. Barley water can work wonders in treating dehydration in elderly people.

    These home remedies can work wonders to treat severe water loss and chronic loose motions. Use them at least more than twice a day to treat such conditions. Do not forget to seek the advice of your child’s pediatrician before giving any home remedies or medication to your child.

    Learn more about Parenting here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Dec 19, 2022