Rotavirus factsheet


Rotavirus is a common illness in children that causes a more severe type of gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis causes vomiting and diarrhoea and spreads very quickly.

Most children have at least one infection of rotavirus by age three.

 Signs and symptoms

Rotavirus is more common during winter in Australia. It spreads when a child has contact with infected fluids that have come from poo or vomit.

Symptoms of rotavirus can include:

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and appear 1-3 days after your child has been infected.

Once your child has recovered, their poo will still be infectious for up to 2 months.

Children can be infected with rotavirus many times. Usually, the first infection is the most serious, and each infection afterwards will help build your child's immunity.

Some children are more at risk of severe symptoms, including:

  • aboriginal children
  • children with immune system problems
  • children who have had an organ transplant
  • children who have issues with organs in their digestive system, like the stomach or bowel.

Call your local doctor as soon as possible if your child shows signs of rotavirus.


A doctor will usually be able to diagnose rotavirus by checking your child's symptoms and testing their:


Rotavirus is usually treated at home with fluids and rest. It will usually get better after about five days.

Your child will lose a lot of water from their body with vomiting and diarrhoea, so it is important to keep their fluids up.

See your local doctor or go to your nearest emergency department if your child:

  • refuses to drink fluids
  • has vomiting and diarrhoea that does not seem to get better
  • starts to look very drowsy and sluggish.

If your child becomes dehydrated, they may need to be admitted to the hospital for treatment.


Preventing the spread of rotavirus

Rotavirus is spread through touching infected poo and vomit.

You will need to make sure that everyone in your household is practising good hygiene to prevent it from spreading.

Good hygiene includes:

  • washing hands with soap and water before and after changing your child’s nappy and cleaning up vomit
  • using disposable nappies with elastic leg bands to prevent poo from leaking
  • throwing used nappies and tissues away in a separate, tightly tied bag
  • frequent washing and disinfecting of any surface that has had contact with poo or vomit
  • regular washing and disinfecting of toys and other items that children will share
  • keeping your child home from daycare, school, and activities if they are unwell
  • washing hands with soap and water before handling, preparing, or eating food or drink.

Rotavirus immunisation

The rotavirus immunisation works to prevent severe diarrhoea and vomiting caused by rotavirus. It is free under the National Immunisation Program.

It is given at two and four months of age by squeezing a small amount of medicine into your baby's mouth.

Children with the rotavirus immunisation may still get the infection, but their symptoms will usually be mild.

The age limits for rotavirus immunisation are strict, and it is not recommended for older children and adults.

Your baby should not have the rotavirus vaccine if they:

  • have not had the first dose of the vaccine by 14 weeks and six days of age
  • have had the first, but not the second, dose of the vaccine by 24 weeks and six days of age.

Your child's doctor can check this for you in your baby's NSW health record.

Before having the immunisation, tell your doctor or nurse if your child:

  • is unwell or has a temperature over 38.5°C
  • has had a severe allergic reaction, including other vaccines
  • has any disease or conditions to do with the digestive system
  • has had intussusception – where the intestine folds into itself
  • is taking steroid medication
  • has ever been given donated blood
  • has a lowered immune system
  • lives with someone who has a lowered immune system.

Speak to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about immunisation for rotavirus.

Last updated Wednesday 24th January 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024