April 9, 2020 8:21 am Published by

Gastroenteritis Explained

Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the intestine. It is a common disease among infants and children. It is most frequently caused by virus and as in many viral infections, it can affect the same child more than once. Other causes of the condition are bacterial infections and food poisoning.

Symptoms of Gastroenteritis

The first symptom is usually vomiting, followed by diarrhea. Your child’s stools may turn watery and frequent with a color varying from brownish to greenish. While the vomiting often subsides quickly, the diarrhea may persist for a week or more.

The symptoms of bacterial gastroenteritis are similar to those of other viral infections, with the difference that the fever is higher and persists for a longer period of time. Your child’s stools may contain blood or pus and symptoms may often lead to a “colic” – a condition particularly prevalent in young babies causing extreme discomfort and excessive crying.

Treatment of Gastroenteritis

It should be noted that medications usually do not help. The condition as a whole (the diarrhea and vomiting associated with the loss of appetite) causes dehydration due to loss of fluids. Therefore, it is important to compensate this loss by ensuring that your child drinks plenty of fluids – even if your child continues to vomit.

To reduce the incidence of vomiting, give small quantities (30-60ml) of fluids every quarter of an hour.

Besides regular fluids, the child should be given fluids containing electrolytes to restore the lost essential minerals and water. Those are available in pharmacies. The fluids will not stop the vomiting or diarrhea, but will prevent your child from becoming dehydrated. A rehydration solution can be prepared at home by adding one cup of lemon juice (or fruit juice) to four cups of water, or by mixing 8 teaspoons of sugar with 1 teaspoon of salt in water.

Recognizing Dehydration

When your child is continuously unable to retain fluids for a long time, he/she develops dehydration. Symptoms include:

  • Passing less urine
  • A dry mouth and excessive thirst
  • Sunken eyes
  • Breathing more deeply than usual
  • Feeling excessively fatigued

You should immediately seek medical advice if you think your child is dehydrated and if:

  • Your child is less than six months old
  • Vomiting and diarrhea continue
  • Stools contain blood
  • Colic is continuous
  • Body temperature is above 38°C degrees Celsius
  • Your child passes less or no urine
  • Your child’s health does not seem to be improving

Providing the Right Nutrition
If you are breast or bottle feeding your baby and suspect dehydration, continue feeding in the normal way, increase the frequency to the next 12-14 hours and give your child clear fluids in-between milk feeds.
If there is no change after 12-14 hours, take your child to see a pediatrician. Try to return your child to his/her normal feeding schedule, as soon as possible.
Food advised during the diarrhea stage are mashed potatoes, carrots, apples, boiled rice and bread.

Preventing Gastroenteritis
Wash your hands frequently – particularly after changing your child’s nappy. It is of equal importance to educate your child on washing hands thoroughly after using the toilet and prior to eating.
Prepare all food under hygienic conditions and make sure that the meat is well-cooked. Be alert that other members of the family may be prone to getting the same condition.

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