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Gastroenteritis in Children

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Children offer suffer from tummy pain, vomiting and diarrhea. The slightest change in their diet or even a change of place could cause a stomach infection in them. In some cases the condition might keep coming back despite administering regular treatments. The cause could be gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis is quite common in children. From mild tummy upset or diarrhea to severe vomiting for days, the symptoms may vary from child to child. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria or other germs that spread easily from one person to another. Such outbreaks are quite common in schools, day care centers, and hospitals.

Main causes of Gastroenteritis in Children:

Food poisoning: Bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter, as well as toxins produced by these bacteria can cause food poisoning in children.

Contaminated Water: Consuming water that is contaminated by microbes or bacteria, especially in places that are poor in sanitation and hygiene, can cause gastroenteritis in children.

Symptoms of Gastroenteritis in children:

  • Diarrhea or loose watery stools for more than three times in a day
  • Vomiting
  • Mucus or blood in stools
  • Dehydration because of diarrhea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps or pain
  • Headache or aching limbs associated with fever

In most cases these symptoms are quite mild and get better on their own after a few days. However, if they last for too long it is important that the child sees a doctor who is an expert in Gastroenterology.

When should your child see a doctor?

In most cases the symptoms of gastroenteritis will be mild. However, in the following situations it is better you seek medical advice immediately:

  • If the age of the child is less than 6 months
  • If the child has any underlying medical condition such as a heart disease, kidney problem or diabetes
  • If the child has a history of premature birth
  • If the child is having fever.
  • If the child is dehydrated, drowsy or confused
  • If the child is unable to keep any fluids down
  • If there is blood in vomit or stools
  • In case the child has severe abdominal pain
  • If the child has recently traveled abroad and caught an infection from there
  • If the condition of the child is getting worse

Treatment for Gastroenteritis in children:

A few days of diarrhea may not need any medication if the child has a strong immune system. Giving the child plenty of fluids should do the trick. Fever or headache can be treated by giving paracetamol or ibuprofen. It is better not to give any medication to stop diarrhea, especially if the child is below 12 years of age. An admission to hospital may be necessary only if the symptoms are severe or if there are any complications.

Complications from Gastroenteritis in children:

Complications might develop only if the child has an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease or if the child has a very weak immune system. One of the most common complications of gastroenteritis in children is a salt or electrolyte imbalance in the body because of lack of fluids. Others include joint inflammation, eye inflammation or skin inflammation.

Gastroenteritis can be easily prevented by adopting good hygiene practices and a few lifestyle changes. However, if the child has any complication such as severe vomiting or rectal bleeding, it is better to consult a doctor immediately.

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