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Viral Gastroenteritis (Children)

What Is Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis, often caused by viruses, is the inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Its main symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea.

Vomiting refers to the forceful ejection of stomach contents, while regurgitation involves the effortless return of small amounts of food, common in infants.

Symptoms like diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and fever may follow vomiting. Vomiting typically stops within six to 24 hours and dietary changes can aid recovery. Diarrhoea may persist for several days. While viral gastroenteritis is generally mild and resolves within a week, dehydration in young children can be a serious concern.
Causes Of Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis can be caused by:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria or their toxins
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Contact with individuals exhibiting similar symptoms
Signs And Symptoms Of Gastroenteritis
  • ​Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever
Diagnosis And Treatment Options For Gastroenteritis

Medications are typically not necessary for stopping vomiting or diarrhoea, except in hospital settings. Certain medications for adults are dangerous for children.

Antibiotics are not needed for viral infections and are reserved for severe bacterial cases.

Oral Rehydration Therapy

ORT is effective in managing vomiting and diarrhoea. It involves:

  • Administering an oral electrolyte solution, available at pharmacies, precisely mixed as per instructions below.
  • For the first six hours, ensure your child receives the recommended solution amount based on age:
    • Under 6 months: 60–90 mL (12–18 teaspoons) per hour

    • 6 months to 2 years: 90–125 mL (18–25 teaspoons) per hour

    • Over 2 years: 125–250 mL (4–8 ounces) per hour
  • Continue breastfeeding if applicable.
  • For vomiting, offer 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of liquid every 1-5 minutes.
  • As the child improves, increase the volume and decrease the frequency.
  • After 24 hours, provide the solution after each episode of watery diarrhea.

Diet management for children with gastroenteritis
A nutritious diet plays a crucial role in combating infection, healing the digestive system and preventing weight loss in children with gastroenteritis.

When vomiting occurs: Pause solid foods for six to 12 hours if your child is vomiting. Once vomiting subsides, you can gradually reintroduce solid foods.

If diarrhoea Is present: Continue to feed your child even with diarrhoea. Offer small, preferred food portions every three to four hours.

Recommended dietary choices

  • Appropriate foods
    • Breast milk, regular milk or formula milk (for infants who have not been weaned); do not further dilute the milk
    • Starchy food such as rice, potatoes, noodles, toast and crackers
    • Cereal such as rice or wheat cereal and oatmeal
    • Protein such as boiled or baked meat, fish, chicken, soy products and eggs
    • Cooked vegetables and fruits (avoid high-fibre or very sweet fruits)
    • Soup

  • Foods to avoid
    • Fruit juice or soft drinks
    • Ice cream, fatty foods, spicy foods
Tips For Taking Care Of Children With Gastroenteritis

Managing vomiting effectively involves giving your child small amounts ofclear fluid rather than large volumes at once, which can lead to continued vomiting. Keep in mind that there are no effective drugs or suppositories for vomiting and that dietary management is key.

Sleep can help settle the stomach and reduce the urge to vomit. Avoid forcing fluids if your child feels nauseated.

You can help to lower chances of your child falling sick by:

  • Practice hand hygiene, especially after handling raw meat or fish.
  • Store raw meat and leftovers in the refrigerator.
  • Avoid giving your child uncooked food.
  • Discard eggs with cracked shells and avoid raw eggs.
  • Sterilise bottles before use for formula-fed infants.

You can prevent your child's illness from spreading by:

  • Keep your child at home until symptoms resolve
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after diaper changes, using the toilet, and before preparing or eating food
  • Avoid sharing personal items like toothbrushes, drinking cups and utensils
  • Limit toy sharing, especially if your child tends to mouth toys 

You can protect your child's bottom by:

  • Change diapers frequently
  • Clean the bottom with soap and water, then air dry. Avoid baby wipes during acute episodes
  • Apply a barrier cream to protect the skin

Please bring your child to the Children's Emergency immediately if he or she has any of the warning signs listed below:

  • Deydration:
    • No tears when crying
    • Sunken eyes
    • Less than five wet diapers ina1 day
    • Dry skin, mouth and tongue
    • Sunken fontanelle

  • Reluctance to drink fluids
  • Persistent vomiting for more than four to six hours
  • More than six large-volume, watery diarrhoea in one day
  • Severe or persistent abdominal pain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Unusual sleepiness or fussiness
  • Cool or geayish skin
  • Green vomit
  • Blood in vomit or diarrhoea
  • Excessive crying and drawing knees to the stomach
  • Fever above 39°C lasting more than 12 hours
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