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Gastroenteritis In Infant: Prevention & Management

Gastroenteritis  or Stomach Flu is a  term covering a host of symptoms like diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, chills and aches, loss of appetite and fever in infants (0-2 yrs of age).

An upset stomach, is a common feature occurring on average thrice a year. This may cause mild diarrhoea and vomiting. It usually only lasts 24-48 hours. But in case of viral infection the illness can last for up to a week or even longer. With plenty of fluids and some tender loving care, most babies are soon back to normal.

Causes

  • A virus is most often the culprit, the most common being the rotavirus.
  • In other cases, the cause may be a form of food poisoning bacteria, such as Salmonella, Shigella, Staphylococcus, Campylobacter, or E. coli.
  • Parasites such as Giardia or Cryptosporidium may also cause gastroenteritis.

Managing Gastroenteritis

  • Consult a doctor immediately if your baby is below 6 months and is has uncontrolled vomiting.
  • Prevent Dehydration:  Offer a drink after each bout of vomiting and if your child is not drinking, see your doctor. Give him/ her sips of water, coconut water, lemon water or lassi and if he/she is breastfed, let him/her feed every so often.
  • Ensure good hygiene – wash hands after each nappy change etc. and remove your child from others until 24 hours since the last passing of diarrhoea or vomiting.

Prevention Tips:

No vaccine is available for viral gastroenteritis with the exception of a newly released rotavirus vaccine called Rotateq. The oral vaccine for infants aged 6 to 32 weeks was approved in February 2006 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As a parent you can avoid infection by.

  • Washing hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water is the best way to prevent the spread of infection. Wash hands after touching your sick child.
  • Disinfect contaminated surfaces such as counter tops and baby changing stations
  • Dispose of soiled diapers in a sealed container.
  • Make it a rule that older siblings wash their hands well before playing with the baby and her toys, or touching her bottles or feeding items.
  • Keep shoes, slippers and pet dishes out of baby’s reach.
  • If you have a maid looking after your baby, ensure that she follows basic hygiene. She should bathe every day, keep her nails trimmed, and wash her hands before holding your baby as well as every time she uses the bathroom.
  • Always boil and filter infant drinking water. If you are preparing supplementary feeds, make sure the water used has been boiled and then cooled, and stored properly. Ensure that boiled, cooled water is stored in airtight containers to prevent contamination.
  • Keep your baby’s toy clean.
  • Avoid sharing food and personal items like towels, clothes or handkerchiefs, especially if someone in the family is down with infection.
  • If you have pets in the house, make sure they do not litter in the house. If your pet is unwell or has diarrhoea, make sure you keep him away from your baby’s room. Do not let your pet climb on your baby’s cot and keep your baby’s things out of your pet’s reach.
  • Keep your child out of daycare until cleared by your doctor.

Remember that you cannot totally exclude bacteria or viruses from coming into contact with your child. It also helps in building a stronger immune system.

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