What is gastroenteritis? Read on to learn the causes, symptoms and treatment of gastroenteritis in children.
Gastroenteritis, commonly known as "stomach flu", is the infection of the stomach and intestines. Many viruses, bacteria and other microbes (germs) can cause gastroenteritis. In children, gastroenteritis is most commonly caused by viruses. They are easily spread from an infected person to another by close contact e.g. contact with an infected person's hands after they have been to the toilet or with surfaces or objects touched by an infected person. The virus can also be passed on if the infected person prepares food.
Food poisoning (from eating food infected with microbes) causes some cases of gastroenteritis. Food poisoning is usually caused by a bacterial infection. Common examples are species of bacteria called Campylobacter, Salmonella and Escherichia coli. Gastroenteritis is common and often self-limiting in young children.
Food Poisoning in Children
In most children, the symptoms are mild and they tend to get better within a few days without any treatment other than drinking plenty of fluids. The important thing is to ensure that they have plenty to drink so that there is no excessive loss of fluids from frequent vomiting and/or diarrhoea. These are some treatment suggestions:
1. Adequate Hydration
Get your child to drink more water and rest as much as possible. Do note that if your child is vomiting, avoid giving him large amounts of water at one go as it is likely to trigger more vomiting. Instead, give him small, frequent sips of water.
2. Encourage Fluids
Gastroenteritis may reduce the intestines' ability to digest lactose in milk, resulting in more tummy ache and diarrhoea. Try to encourage fluids such as water, barley water, rice water or rehydration fluids as advised by your doctor. If he has no appetite for solid food, do not worry. Adequate fluid intake is more important.
3. Introduce Food Slowly
Once your child's vomiting subsides in the early stage, resume a normal diet gradually with lean meats and complex carbohydrates (e.g. rice, bread). Avoid fatty, spicy or fried foods and sugary beverages.
4. Avoid Anti-Diarrheal Medications
Unless prescribed by the doctor, do not give your child anti-diarrhoea medications. Diarrhoea is the body's natural mechanism to remove harmful viruses, bacteria and toxins from the body. Certain anti-diarrhoeal medications are not safe in young children and may cause more problems.
Occasionally, children may develop severe gastroenteritis, requiring medical attention. If you have any concerns or if your child has the following symptoms, please bring him/her to see a doctor:
There are some simple things that we can do to reduce the risk of having gastroenteritis:
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is meant purely for educational purposes and may not be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should seek the advice of your doctor or a qualified healthcare provider before starting any treatment or if you have any questions related to your health, physical fitness or medical condition.
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This article was last reviewed on
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
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