How Long Should a Child Stay Home with Rotavirus?

father checking daughter's forehead for fever
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According to the Centers for Disease Control, the incubation period for rotavirus is 1-2 days. The symptoms of the illness can last as many as 10 days and you should consider your child contagious for as many as 12 days.

That said, the agencies that regulate child care and schools have varying guidelines. Where I am in Texas, for example, there is no specific guideline for rotavirus like there is for say, ringworm or pink eye. However, there is a catch-all guideline that would appear to govern rotavirus. It excludes any child with:

  • "Symptoms and signs of possible severe illness such as lethargy, abnormal breathing, uncontrolled diarrhea, two or more vomiting episodes in 24 hours, rash with fever, mouth sores with drooling, behavior changes, or other signs that the child may be severely ill; or a health-care professional has diagnosed the child with a communicable disease, and the child does not have medical documentation to indicate that the child is no longer contagious."

Since rotavirus can produce several of those symptoms, as long as any are present a child would not be able to attend child care or go to school. In addition, a child care provider could require documentation from a health care professional if the child was formally diagnosed with the virus.

In another state, Wisconsin, the guidelines are specific to rotavirus. They characterize diarrhea as "stool that contains blood or mucus or is watery or less formed with greater occurrence than usual, and is not contained by diapers or toilet use," and a child is excluded from care if they have rotavirus as long as diarrhea is present. In this same state, providers are also required to take as many as 10 stool samples for children and staff who are showing symptoms of rotavirus.

In addition, most states have a guideline stating that any child should be excluded if they require more care than usual, to such a degree as it would be detrimental to the care of the whole group. Children with rotavirus often require constant attention since vomiting, fever, general discomfort and the need for rehydration come along with diarrhea.

You can find out what the licensing regulations are by contacting the agency responsible for regulating child care in your area. If you live in the United States, you can use this resource to find the standards concerning illnesses for your state.

A safe bet, though, would be to keep your child home as long as there are any symptoms of the illness and as long as your child is experiencing any discomfort. When you return to care, make sure the provider knows why your child has been out and give any special instructions for rehydration.

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