The Rotavirus Vaccine: Health 101

Find out why and when your baby needs the rotavirus vaccine.

Why does my kid need the rotavirus vaccine?

The rotavirus vaccine, called RotaTeq, protects your child against a bug called rotavirus, which causes a nasty stomach flu. This strain of virus may make children sicker than others that cause stomach flu. Before this vaccine was introduced in 2006, rotavirus was responsible for about 400,000 doctor visits and 200,000 emergency room trips in the U.S. every year.

RotaTeq protects against the five main strains of rotavirus, but there's also some evidence that it may protect against more, says Neal Halsey, MD, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland and a member of the Parents magazine board of advisors. In studies, the rotavirus vaccine prevented 74 percent of all vomiting and diarrhea cases caused by rotavirus and 98 percent of severe ones. It also reduced hospitalizations by 96 percent.

Rotavirus is very contagious and, as a result, very common in young kids. Your child's most likely to get infected between November and May, especially if he hasn't received the vaccine and is regularly exposed to lots of other kids through daycare or playgroups.

As with other viruses, there's no quick treatment if your child contracts rotavirus -- you have to let the bug run its course. Parents should watch their children closely and keep them hydrated, since dehydration is a common and serious side effect from rotavirus. In severe cases, a baby can become dehydrated in as little as six hours.

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