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Alternative Treatments for the Rotavirus

written by: Marina Hanes • edited by: Lisa Lambson • updated: 5/25/2009

Adults and children can become infected by the rotavirus, but it's more common in children. Since it's highly contagious, it can spread quickly, so it's wise to be aware of how to remedy the situation at home. Sometimes a hospital's expertise is needed, but you can manage the virus at home.

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    What is the Rotavirus?

    The rotavirus is a virus that commonly affects infants and children. It infects the bowels and causes diarrhea, fever, vomiting, dehydration and abdominal pain. The incubation period is around two days, and infected individuals usually experience vomiting and diarrhea anywhere from three to eight days.

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    Is the Rotavirus Contagious?

    Since the rotavirus is extremely contagious, it’s important to thoroughly sanitize areas where children eat, drink and play. The virus can stay alive on a person’s hands for up to four hours, and it can live on hard surfaces for up to 10 days. Regular cleaning as well as good hygiene can prevent the spread of this virus, so it’s wise to keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer around.

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    Current Treatments

    Since the rotatvirus is a virus, there is no cure for it. It’s basically up to the person’s immune system to fight it off. However, current and alternative treatments focus on the most common rotavirus symptoms, which are dehydration and diarrhea. Anti-diarrheal medications may prolong the infection, but oral rehydration therapy (ORT) and intravenous fluids can help keep water and electrolyte levels in balance.

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    Alternative Treatments

    When the rotavirus is in its beginning stages, you may be able to use some alternative treatments at home instead of taking your child to the hospital for an ORT or IV.

    A homemade ORT is easy to make and consists of the following ingredients: one liter of water, one teaspoon of salt and eight teaspoons of sugar. It’s important to measure the sugar accurately, because additional sugar can make diarrhea worse. For this reason, you should avoid sugary sports drinks. Although a homemade ORT doesn’t contain potassium or bicarbonate, it’s not as effective as packaged ORTs, but it can be beneficial if you have no other options.

    Also, putting your child on the BRAT diet can help bind the bowels and replace the potassium that he/she is probably lacking. This diet consists of bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast. Bananas and rice are ‘binders,’ which means that these ingredients may temporarily relieve diarrhea and give your child time to rehydrate.

    When a child or adult has the rotavirus, it’s important to treat it as soon as possible, because once the individual becomes dehydrated, it can become a life-threatening situation. There is a vaccine for the virus called RotaTeq, which can be given to children at two, four and six months of age, so this is an option you can discuss with your doctor if you prefer vaccines over alternative treatments.

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