Norovirus in Toddlers

by Sara Ipatenco

    The norovirus is an unpleasant illness that causes gastrointestinal distress and painful abdominal symptoms. Because toddlers tend to be germ factories and norovirus is highly contagious, the odds aren't necessarily in your child's favor. Fortunately, most people recover completely, but knowing the risks associated with the illness will help you make the right health care decisions should your child catch the norovirus.

    Norovirus is a virus that gets into your toddler's intestines and causes inflammation, which is what causes the symptoms. Each year in the United States, the norovirus is responsible for 21 million infections, 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young children are among the most at-risk populations, and the norovirus is the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis among children. The virus cannot be treated with antibiotics and your toddler can catch it more than once during her childhood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The norovirus is highly contagious because it can tolerate extremely hot and cold temperatures. Toddlers can pick up the virus by touching a surface that an infected person touched or by sharing cups and utensils with an infected person. The virus can also be present in contaminated food and water, and when a toddler consumes them, it migrates to his intestines and makes him ill. Being in close quarters with other people, such as at day care, can increase the risk that your toddler will catch the norovirus, according to MayoClinic.com.

    The onset of symptoms occurs within 24 to 48 hours after exposure to the norovirus and causes vomiting and diarrhea. Your toddler will likely experience abdominal pain and cramping, too. Some toddlers infected with the virus will run a low-grade fever. The symptoms typically last several days, according to MayoClinic.com, and most people recover without treatment. However, the virus can still be present in feces for up to three days after recovery, which means that your toddler will still be contagious even after she feels better.

    Vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, particularly for young children. If your toddler is vomiting and having diarrhea several times a day and also won't drink, seek medical attention immediately. According to MayoClinic.com, people who can't keep fluids down might need to receive them intravenously. Prevent future contamination by practicing good hand washing skills with your toddler, which kills the virus before it makes him sick. Once your toddler recovers, sanitize your home to help prevent him from getting the virus again.

    About the Author

    Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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