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GASTRO-ENTERITIS

Definition:

Irritation or infection of the digestive tract, involving the stomach; small intestine and large intestine, affecting newborns, infants and children (0 to 5 years).

Signs & Symptoms

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Irritability.
  • Poor appetite.
  • Fever.

Causes

  • Virus.
  • Bacterial infection.
  • Intestinal parasites.

Prevention

Wash hands often with warm water and soap, especially before eating or handling the child, to avoid passing germs from hand to mouth.

Risk Increases With

  • Poor or improper diet.
  • Previous illness that has lowered resistance.
  • Crowded or unsanitary living conditions.

Diagnostic Measures

  • Observation of symptoms.
  • History and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory stool and blood studies.

Possible Complications

Possible dehydration with 10 or more liquid bowel movements in 1 day. Signs of¬†dehydration¬†include lethargy; sunken eyes; dry mouth; sunken fontanelles (soft spots on baby’s head); wrinkled skin; little or no urination.

Probable Outcomes

Condition should improve in 48 hours if the bowel is allowed to rest. If diarrhea or vomiting is so severe that the child cannot retain fluids, serious dehydration can occur.

TREATMENT

General Measures

  • Check the child’s temperature once or twice a day.
  • Observe the child for signs of dehydration.
  • Wash hands after handling the child or before preparing food.

Medication

Don’t use ANY non-prescription, antidiarrhea drugs without consulting your doctor. They can harm the child.

Activity

Reduce the child’s activity until illness improves. The child may resume normal activity 24 hours after vomiting stops.

Diet

  • Fluids are extremely important.
  • For a bottle-fed infant, prepare a mixture of 500ml water, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon sugar, or you may use a commercial electrolyte solution, after consultation with your doctor.
  • For a breast-fed infant, consult your doctor for diet instructions.
  • For an older child, offer the following clear liquids in unlimited quantity along with ORS.: coconut water, rice kanji with salt, apple, or pomegranate juice; khichdi, sabudana (sago) kanji, fresh curds or butter milk.
  • For an infant under 1 year, give 1/2 oz. of fluid every 20 minutes.
    For a child over 1 year, give 1 oz. every 30 minutes. Don’t exceed these amounts during the first day or two, even if the child is not satisfied. Offer only as much as you intend the child to have. Don’t supplement clear fluids with milk or solid food.
  • When the child has been free of diarrhea for 1 day, offer one of the following low-residue foods: banana; bread; cooked carrots; melon; noodles; cooked peas; potatoes; rice; toast.
  • If diarrhea doesn’t recur within 2 hours after the solid feeding, continue feeding the child from the preceding list for 24 hours. Gradually work back to a normal diet.

Contact your Doctor

  • The child’s temperature rises to 103F or higher.
  • Child shows signs of dehydration.
  • Child doesn’t improve in 48 hours despite treatment.
  • An infant under 2 months old has symptoms of gastroenteritis.