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Baby illness

The Consequences of Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is an infection of the gut (intestines).

A virus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis. Rotavirus is the most common virus causing gastroenteritis in children.

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Updated on:
September 30, 2022

Causes

A virus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis. Rotavirus is the most common virus causing gastroenteritis in children. Adenoviruses are another common group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis in children.

Viruses are easily spread from one infected person to another by close contact. This is often because the virus is present in the infected person's hands after they have been to the toilet. Surfaces or objects touched by the infected person can also allow transmission of the virus. The virus can also be passed on if the infected person prepares food. Outbreaks of a virus causing gastroenteritis can often occur - for example, in schools or hospitals.

Food poisoning (from eating food infected with microbes) causes some cases of gastroenteritis.

Symptoms

  • Diarrhoea and vomiting - The main symptom is diarrhoea, often with being sick (vomiting) as well. Diarrhoea means loose or watery stools (faeces), usually at least three times in 24 hours.
  • Blood or mucus can appear in the stools with some infections.
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting may cause dehydration.
  • Abdominal pain - Crampy pains in the tummy (abdomen) are common. Pains may ease for a while each time some diarrhoea is passed.
  • Fever - A high temperature.
  • Headache.
  • Aching limbs.

In most children, the symptoms are mild and they tend to get better within a few days. If vomiting occurs, it often lasts only a day or so but sometimes longer. Diarrhoea often continues after the vomiting stops and commonly lasts for between 5 to 7 days. Slightly loose stools may persist for a week or so further before a normal pattern returns. Sometimes the symptoms last longer.

Investigations

Tests are not usually needed. However, in certain cases, the doctor may ask you to collect a stool (faeces) sample from your child. For example, if your child:

  • Is particularly unwell.
  • Has bloody stools.
  • Is admitted to the hospital.
  • Has suspected of food poisoning.
  • Has recently traveled abroad.
  • Has symptoms that are not getting better.

When should I see a doctor?

  • If your child is under the age of 6 months.
  • If your child has an underlying medical condition (for example, heart or kidney problems, diabetes, history of premature birth).
  • If your child has a high temperature (fever).
  • If you suspect a lack of fluid in the body (dehydration) is developing.
  • If your child appears drowsy or confused.
  • If your child is sick (vomiting) and unable to keep fluids down.
  • If there is blood in their diarrhoea or vomit.
  • If your child has severe tummy (abdominal) pain.
  • Infections caught abroad.
  • If your child has severe symptoms, or if you feel that their condition is getting worse.
  • If your child's symptoms are not settling (for example, vomiting for more than 1-2 days, or diarrhoea that does not start to settle after 3-4 days).

Prevention

Children should wash their hands:

  • After going to the toilet (and after changing nappies).
  • Before touching food.
  • After gardening.
  • After playing with pets (healthy animals can carry certain harmful bacteria).
  • And immunisation.

Treatment

Medication is not needed in this disease. Doctors might give paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease a high temperature or headache.

Racecadotril is a prescription-only medicine that is occasionally prescribed to children over the age of 3 months. It helps to reduce the amount of fluid lost in the stools in children who are still getting diarrhoea with fluid replacement therapy.

Home Remedies

  • The main remedy is to give your child lots to drink. This may mean giving special rehydration drinks. Also, once any dehydration is treated with drinks, encourage your child to eat as normally as possible.
  • Homemade ORS is the best and easiest way to recover from dehydration and provide energy at the same time.
  1. Clean Water - 1 litre.
  2. Sugar - 30 gms.
  3. Salt - 2 gms.
  4. Stir the mixture till the sugar dissolves.
  • Rice gruel, Jowar kanji, Dal water, Moong soup, and tender coconut water are more options to help your child in improving the digestive fire - agni which goes low in such diseases.
  • Drink boiled water strictly though you have the most expensive filters. Pomegranate is a great fruit to control diarrhoea and vomiting. Pomegranate fresh extracted juice works well here.