Rotavirus: one of the most common causes of GI problems in kids

Rotavirus infection is one of the most common gastrointestinal problems in children in Singapore. In fact, almost all children get infected by the time they are five. They can get it more than once, but the first infection is usually the worst.

Common symptoms of a rotavirus infection include diarrhoea characterised by watery stools, vomiting and fever. These can be accompanied by nausea, abdominal cramps and a refusal to eat, says Professor Phua Kong Boo, Senior Con​​​​​sultant at​ the Gastroenterology Service of KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital​ (KKH), a member of the SingHealth​ group​​.​

Parents should watch out because the i​nfection can get serious. A recent KKH study led by Prof Phua found that rotavirus was the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in children below the age of five. Rotavirus accounted for nearly​ 40 per cent of severe gastroenteritis-related hospitalisations in Singapore.

Prof Phua observes: “The most number of children hospitalised for rot​avirus gastroenteritis were aged between 13 and 24 months, followed by those aged 0-12 months. The average hospital stays lasted up to three to four ​days.”

As rotavirus infection can easily lead to severe dehydration, over 60 per cent of hospitalised​​​ children eventually need an intravenous drip for rehydration. “Severe dehydration can be dangerous and life-threatening. The younger the child, the higher the risk,” warns Prof Phua.

Yet most local parents do not know en​​ough about the virus. Actually, up to 40 per cent of parents had never even heard of the rotavirus, according to another KKH study conducted in 2010. So what can parents do?

See next page for 3 things about rotavirus​ you need to know.

​Ref: U11