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Rotavirus is a contagious virus that causes most diarrheal diseases in children and infants around the world.¹ The virus is round-shaped, hence the name “rota” that means wheel in Latin. It is easily transmittable and can spread quickly, causing intestine inflammation and severe diarrhea.² One of the severe complications of rotavirus is dehydration, which is a major cause of death in infected children, especially in developing countries.³ Here are the common causes and symptoms of rotavirus, and how to treat some of its debilitating symptoms like diarrhea and dehydration.

What are the Symptoms of Rotavirus?

Rotavirus symptoms can take up to two days after exposure to appear. These symptoms are most noticeable in children, and they include fever, stomach pain and severe diarrhea, which can last for 3 to 8 days.³ Adults, however, experience some of the same symptoms but to a lesser degree. Here are the most common symptoms of rotavirus:⁴

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • High fever
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Dehydration

More severe symptoms include passing stools with blood, frequent vomiting, high temperature in infants younger than six months and high temperature lasting more than 24 hours in a child older than six months.⁵ These symptoms require immediate medical attention. Dehydration is also a serious health concern in children due to their vulnerability and small body weight. It results from electrolytes loss due to frequent bowel movements and vomiting.⁶ Here are some symptoms of dehydration to look out for in children:⁵

  • Lack of tears when crying
  • Eyes that look sunken
  • Dry mouth
  • Reduced urination
  • Pale or blotchy colour to the skin

What Causes Rotavirus and How to Prevent It?

The virus transmits through an infected person’s stool a few days before symptoms show up and up to a few days after symptoms abate. It can spread through touching your mouth with unwashed hands that are contaminated with rotavirus particles or eating contaminated food. It spreads easily, especially among young children, infants and those who work with children. In addition to vaccinations, practising hand hygiene and food safety is important to prevent rotavirus infections.⁷ Wash your hands frequently and clean surfaces with a disinfectant to avoid viruses and diseases in general. Rotavirus particles can remain on surfaces for many days if left without proper cleaning and disinfection.⁸

Rotavirus Vaccination and Diarrhea Treatment

When suffering from rotavirus, patients should drink plenty of fluids and avoid foods that can increase symptoms of diarrhea. In the case of severe dehydration and further complications that can be life-threatening, hospitalization and intravenous (IV) fluids will be required.²

The oral rotavirus vaccine is available in the market since 2006. It was introduced in two forms, Rotarix for infants 6 to 24 weeks old and RotaTeq for infants 6 to 32 weeks old. However, there is no vaccine available for adults and older children. Like any vaccine, the rotavirus vaccine does not prevent infection 100%. Rare side effects of Rotarix or RotaTeq vaccines include diarrhea, fever, intussusception and irritability.⁹

While there are no medications to treat rotavirus, over-the-counter anti-diarrheal drugs are very useful to treat diarrhea symptoms and risk of dehydration in children over 12 and adults.¹⁰ IMODIUM® allows your body to absorb fluids and salts again to restore the consistency of stools. It contains an active ingredient called Loperamide that helps restore the natural rhythm of your intestines to return digestion to its normal pace.

Visit our FAQ section to learn more about diarrhea and how IMODIUM® can help you manage it.

References:

1.  https://www.who.int/immunization/diseases/rotavirus/en/ - 26 March 2020
2.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8558/ - 1996
3.  https://www.cdc.gov/rotavirus/about/symptoms.html - November 5, 2019
4.  https://www.nfid.org/infectious-diseases/rotavirus/ -  February 4, 2020
5.  https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=9... - September 5, 2019
6.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK436022/ - February 3, 2019
7.  https://www.cdc.gov/rotavirus/about/transmission.html - November 5, 2019
8.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7890922  - Dec 1994
9.  https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/rotavirus/public/index.html -  February 1, 2017
10. https://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/documents/9241593180/en/ - 2005