Up to three years of age, an average of one to two episodes occurs per year, with a peak incidence between six and 23 months.

It is, as a general rule, caused by a virus, the most common being Adenovirus and Rotavirus (approximately 40% of cases of diarrhoea up to the age of five are due to this virus). But it can also originate from bacteria, with Salmonella being responsible for most cases in southern European countries.

The main symptoms are: diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, fever, and stomach pain.

If it is of bacterial origin, it can also cause the presence of blood in the stool. In babies and younger children, it can be more serious, causing dehydration, which may require hospital treatment.

Symptoms appear quickly: within one day after the person becomes infected. Children are more likely to be affected by Rotavirus in winter and spring (between December and June). In the case of children, daycare, kindergarten, school, and even their own home are the main points where contagion occurs, as viruses spread easily.

Vaccination is the best way to protect children. The Rotavirus vaccine immunises babies and young children against this virus, preventing its appearance or reducing its severity. There are currently two vaccines available (Rotateq® and Rotarix®) that are administered orally, in drops, between two and three months of age. This can cause some side effects, such as diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, loss of appetite, and irritability.

In addition to being the best way to protect against this disease, another advantage of the vaccine is group immunisation, which ends up protecting even those who have not been vaccinated.

It is easily contagious among babies and younger children, and it is possible for them to transmit Rotavirus to other family members. Some measures that can help you prevent this situation:

Wash your hands frequently, especially after caring for the child, with soap and water and encourage the child to do the same (they constantly put their hands in their mouths, which may have touched contaminated surfaces), especially after having a bowel movement or vomiting, eating, or preparing food. Alcohol-based gels are not always the most effective option.

Do not share bath towels and kitchen utensils, such as cutlery, with the sick child.

Wash contaminated clothing separately from other members’ clothing and always in hot water.

Flush the toilet whenever you use the toilet, particularly after having a bowel movement or vomiting, and clean the surrounding area.

Disinfect all contaminated surfaces and objects with a bleach-based product.

Do not take your child to swim in the pool for the first two weeks after the last time they had diarrhoea. Although the child no longer shows symptoms, Rotavirus can infect other children through pool water.

For more information please contact Grupo HPA Saude on (+351) 282 420 400.