Gastroenteritis and Dehydration
Gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection that is caused by poorly prepared foods, contaminated water, etc. It can cause diarrhea, nausea, headache, and vomiting.
What causes it?
Gastro is caused by viruses. They include:
How is the gastroenteritis virus passed?
Children can get gastroenteritis when:
• They touch objects containing diarrhea or vomit from somebody with gastroenteritis.
• They eat poorly cooked food.
• During food poisoning.
How long does gastroenteritis last?
Vomiting will usually settle in a couple of days. However, diarrhea can last for about ten days.
What are the signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis in children?
If your child is suffering from gastroenteritis, he/she may show different signs and symptoms. They include:
• Passing watery stool (diarrhea)
• Excessive vomiting
• Slight fever
• Some acute tummy pains
How to Tell if Your Child Is Dehydrated
Dehydration is brought about by excessive vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration leads to excessive loss of fluids in the body. The following signs should guide you in determining whether your child is dehydrated or not:
• If the mouth and tongue of your child are unusually dry, he/she might be dehydrated.
• Sunken eyes is another sign of dehydration.
• Very cold hands as well as feet.
• If the child is unusually sleepy.
• Tiredness or lack of energy.
• If your child passes little or no urine.
Gastroenteritis: Seeking Medical Advice
If the symptoms of gastroenteritis persist or become severe, seek medication as soon as possible. Your doctor will try to seek clarification on:
• Your recent travel (i.e. if you did travel with your child).
• Whether the child has been in contact with somebody having similar symptoms.
• Whether the child has ever taken antibiotics.
These will help establish the cause of his/her gastroenteritis. Your doctor will usually examine the signs and symptoms such as dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and headache. In addition, your doctor may check your child’s temperature and heart rate. He/she may also check the child’s abdomen for any tenderness.
If the above examinations don’t give clear information, your doctor can request you to collect your child’s stool in the following circumstances:
• Your child is very unwell.
• Passes stools containing blood.
• During food poisoning.
• If your child has traveled abroad.
• Shows severe symptoms that don’t go away.
The Key Points You Should Remember
• Gastroenteritis mainly causes diarrhea and vomiting.
• Diarrhea caused by gastroenteritis can result in watery or bloody stools. In this case, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.
• Children suffering from gastro should drink a lot of fluids.
• Give your child small amounts of fluid.
• Gastroenteritis can lead to dehydration in babies as well as in young children.
• Keenly evaluate key signs and symptoms of gastro in children like dry lips, passing little urine, sunken eyes, and strange sleepiness. Seek medical attention as soon as possible if you suspect that your child is having gastro.
Gastro: The Complication
Remember, gastro can make your child develop complications like:
• Electrolyte imbalance can set in. This is the imbalance of water and salts.
• Certain reactive complications such as the inflammation of the eyes and skin.
• Spread of infection
• Persistent diarrhea
• Lactose intolerance