Gastroenteritis is an ailment that affects the digestive tract of individuals, causing symptoms such as watery stools, vomiting, and stomach cramps. Often referred to as the stomach flu, it is a sickness that frequently plagues children across the world, affecting more severely those with little or no access to quality medical care.
For children, the possible sources of contracting gastroenteritis are widespread. Anything, from swimming in contaminated water to touching animals that may be suffering from diarrhoea, can transfer the pathogen to a child. This pathogen can be a virus, bacteria, or a parasite.
Symptoms of gastroenteritis can range from mild to severe depending on the individual. They are generally known to last for 2-3 days. Occasionally, however, they could persist longer, going on for about 10 days. Common symptoms of gastroenteritis include:
The treatment process for gastroenteritis simply involves treating individual symptoms as they occur and waiting for the ailment to pass. For a healthy adult, recovery will be relatively quick without any complications. However, for children, recovering from the illness could take a little more time. It is important to note that if adequate care is not taken the sickness could quickly spiral into complications.
You should take your child to a doctor if you notice the following symptoms:
Children will often not realise they are dehydrated. As a caretaker, watch for signs of dehydration by comparing how much water they generally drink with how much they are consuming while ill. The same goes for their toileting habits. Decreased urination is a sign of dehydration.
If you have an infant suffering from gastroenteritis, you may notice symptoms of vomiting. It is important to not confuse vomiting with spitting up. Spitting up is common and can be a daily occurrence, but vomiting in babies generally warrants immediate medical attention.
Contact your paediatrician immediately if your baby has been vomiting over the past several hours, hasn't had a wet diaper in six hours or has severe diarrhoea, has a dry mouth or is crying without tears, and is unusually drowsy or unresponsive.
Gastroenteritis can be distressing for your child. Taking the right precautionary measures will ensure that you keep your child safe. Here are a few tips to consider.
For a person with a healthy immune system, gastroenteritis can be fairly easy to deal with. However, the sickness can be fatal for infants and old adults with limited immunity. Along with the tips suggested above, consider drinking only clean boiled water, cooking food well, and avoiding raw and undercooked foods. For those already affected by gastroenteritis, perhaps the most important symptom to watch for is dehydration.