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Treating Gastroenteritis in Babies and Children

February 12, 2021

Gastro in Children

In recent months there have been increased reports of gastroenteritis outbreaks in child care settings in Adelaide, with similar patterns reported througout Australia & NZ.

Gastro is a common condition which can be more serious for young children, older people and people with pre-existing conditions. A child's developing immune systems coupled with a general tendency to taste things they shouldn’t make kids obvious targets for pathogens that cause intestinal upset.

Causes of Gastroenteritis

The term gastroenteritis translates to “inflammation of the stomach and the intestines”. Inflammation can be triggered by anything the body recognises as foreign and harmful, which is long list.

Viral gastroenteritis is highly infectious and is spread through contamination of hands, objects or food with infected faeces or vomit. The virus enters the body through the mouth, so proper hygiene is a great way to avoid gastro.

Symptoms

Symptoms of viral gastroenteritis include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, headaches abdominal cramping, and muscle aches. Symptoms may present 12 hours to 2 days after contact with the infected material and usually last between one or two days, sometimes longer. Please be aware that the symptoms of gastroenteritis may also present in a variety of other diseases. Always consult your local GP for diagnosis.

It is important to note that those who have recovered from viral gastroenteritis are still infectious up to 48 hours after resolution of symptoms. If your child has experienced it, isolate them for a couple days to prevent spread of disease, especially to other children.

How to treat Gastro in Kids?

What can we do to lessen the incidence of gastro and help kids recover from it faster?

Among the biggest dangers of gastro is the threat of dehydration. Therefore, replacing the fluids lost through diarrhoea and vomiting is essential to treatment. This is particularly true for children, whose total body water makes up a higher percentage of their body weight compared to adults. 

Infants

Babies should immediately be brought to the doctor if exhibiting symptoms of gastroenteritis. Other warning signs include a dry mouth, absence of urination for 6 hours or more (dry nappy), and lethargy.

Since it is difficult to get a crying baby to drink enough to reverse the dehydration in time, doctors may rehydrate through intravenous drips. It is important to let infants continue to feed on breast milk or formula in between to give them more energy.

Children

The older the child, the more resilient they are when it comes to dealing with dehydration. If gastro is caught early on, it can be managed at home with rehydration measures. Purchase Gastrolyte, Hydralyte or similar oral rehydration salts at your local pharmacy and keep them drinking it every few hours or as directed by your doctor.

In between rehydration, they can eat small portions of food that are not high in sugar or fat. This is to avoid stressing out a digestive system that is still dealing with an infection. 

Unless prescribed by a GP, avoid giving antibiotics or any medication for nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea. While these are helpful to adults, they may not be useful for kids. 

If gastro symptoms are severe or prolonged, always book an appointment with your doctor.

Stop the spread of Gastro