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Protect Your Child from Rotavirus Disease

Photo: BabiesRotavirus can cause severe diarrhea in young children. They can get very dehydrated and need to be hospitalized. Rotavirus spreads easily. Parents can protect their children by making sure they are vaccinated with rotavirus vaccine.

Rotavirus is a common virus that most infants and young children get. They can have severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. Some children can lose a lot of fluids and become dehydrated. As a result, they may need to be hospitalized and can even die.

Rotavirus spreads easily among children. In the United States, children are more likely to get rotavirus disease from December to June. Children can get infected with rotavirus by accidentally getting rotavirus from an infected person in their mouths. This can happen when children touch objects or surfaces that have stool (poop) on them then put their fingers in their mouths. They can also get infected by consuming food and liquids that have rotavirus in them.

Rotavirus Can Cause Dehydration

Rotavirus Can Cause Dehydration

Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Decrease in urination
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Feeling dizzy when standing up
  • A dehydrated child may cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.

Prevent Dehydration

You can help prevent your child from getting dehydrated by having him drink plenty of liquids. Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) are helpful to prevent and treat dehydration. These are commonly available in food and drug stores. If you are unsure about how to use ORS, call your doctor.

Mother and baby

Children are most likely to get rotavirus disease in the winter and spring (December through June).

Protect your child with rotavirus vaccine

The best way to protect your child against rotavirus is with rotavirus vaccine. Almost all children who get rotavirus vaccine (85 to 98 percent) will be protected from severe rotavirus disease. And most vaccinated children will not get rotavirus disease at all.

There are two different vaccines that protect against rotavirus. Both are given by mouth.

  • Rotateq® - Infants should receive three doses of this vaccine—at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age.
  • Rotarix® - Infants should receive two doses of this vaccine—at 2 months and 4 months of age.

This first dose of either vaccine is most effective if it is given before a child is 15 weeks of age. Also, children should receive all doses of rotavirus vaccine before they turn 8 months old.

Millions of infants have been vaccinated

Millions of infants in the United States have gotten rotavirus vaccine safely. However, in June 2013, new data was released showing a small increase in cases of intussusception from rotavirus vaccination. Intussusception is a bowel blockage that is treated in a hospital and may require surgery. These studies estimate a risk ranging from about 1 intussusception case in every 20,000 infants to 1 intussusception case in every 100,000 infants after vaccination. Intussusception would most likely happen within the first week after the first or second dose of rotavirus vaccine.​

CDC continues to recommend that infants receive rotavirus vaccine. The benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the small risk of intussusception. Thanks to the rotavirus vaccine, there has been a dramatic decrease in hospitalizations and emergency room visits for rotavirus illness.

Paying for Rotavirus Vaccines

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. However, you may want to check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don't have health insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To find out if your child is eligible, visit the VFC website or ask your child's doctor. You can also contact your state VFC coordinator.

More Information

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