Gastroenteritis is a prevalent condition in which the stomach and bowels are inflamed. The condition is typically due to a viral or bacterial infection. The two indicative symptoms of gastroenteritis include diarrhea and vomiting that typically clears up within 5-7 days.
Causes of gastroenteritis
The usual cause of gastroenteritis in children is the rotavirus. The virus spreads in stools of those who are infected. It can be transferred to objects, food and surfaces if the individual does not wash hands after using the toilet. This infection is passed on to others once they either consume tainted food or directly handle a contaminated article or surface and then touch the mouth.
In most cases, young children face a higher risk for this infection since they often forget to wash hands after using the toilet or before eating and have not established resistance to the rotavirus.
When to seek further care
In most cases, gastroenteritis does not require diagnosis since the condition typically subsides without treatment. A doctor should be consulted if the child has the following:
- Indications of being dehydrated or has a high risk for dehydration
- Additional indications of a serious condition
- Blood-streaked or mucus in the stool
- Vomiting for more than 3 days or has diarrhea for more than a week
- Has spent time abroad
- Weakened immune system due to underlying health conditions such as leukemia or as a side effect of chemotherapy
Treatment for gastroenteritis
In most cases in children, the condition is mild and subsides within 5-7 days without any form of treatment. Nevertheless, young children especially those who are less than a year old face a high risk for dehydration which is vital to drink plenty of fluids. In some cases, oral rehydration solutions can be given.
In severe cases involving significant loss of fluids, hospitalization is needed so that fluid is replaced via a tube inserted down the nose or directly into a vein. Nevertheless, this is only required in uncommon cases.
How to prevent gastroenteritis
Since gastroenteritis readily spreads, it is vital to take the necessary steps to prevent it from spreading to others.
- Encourage children to properly wash hands after using the toilet and before eating.
- Always clean the toilet or potty thoroughly with a disinfectant after every episode of diarrhea and vomiting. Make sure that the handle and seat are also cleaned.
- Wash hands on a regular basis especially after changing diapers or cleaning the toilet or potty.
- Avoid sharing the child’s flannels, towels, cutlery or eating utensils with other family members.
- The child should stay at home at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhea or vomiting.
Take note that there is also a rotavirus vaccination that is part of the routine childhood vaccination for children 2-3 months old that can help reduce the risk for developing gastroenteritis.