What is RotaVirus?
During the winter and spring, children and young babies can experience nasty tummy bugs causing long bouts of vomiting, frequent runny poos (diarrhoea) and pain. These infections are often caused by a bug called rotavirus. Mums like to keep hands and surfaces clean for babies and children, but despite this, rotavirus is very easily spread and may spread to others in the family too. Although all children are at risk for rotavirus, those going to childcare centres or settings, where many young children are together, are at a higher risk.
Rotavirus causes children to become very unwell fast. Young babies and children can’t cope with losing body fluids rapidly through vomiting and runny poos and may not be able to replace them quickly enough. This is known as dehydration, and the younger your child is, the faster this can turn serious. Severe dehydration means your child needs to see a doctor urgently and may mean a stay in hospital until they get better. Antibiotics don’t work on rotavirus and so medical treatment is needed to help your child replace the fluids they have lost. Talk to your family doctor early to avoid further complications.
How can RotaVirus be prevented?
You can immunise your child against rotavirus. Rotavirus vaccine can dramatically reduce the seriousness and complications of the illness, although as with all vaccines, in some children it may not totally prevent rotavirus infection. Choosing to vaccinate reduces your chances of hospital stays, time off work, or your child suffering from severe dehydration that in extreme cases can cause death.
The rotavirus vaccine is not available for free, but parents can purchase the vaccine through their General Practice. It is an oral vaccine and babies need two doses, at least four weeks apart. They can have these at same time as the routine vaccinations at six weeks, three months or five months of age. You need to think about this vaccine early on as the first dose must be given by 14 weeks of age and the second dose by 24 weeks of age.Side effects may include mild symptoms like irritability, diarrhoea, and vomiting but serious side effects are rare. If you would like further information, talk to your doctor or nurse.