Gastro and young children – the two seem to go hand in hand. When your child is sick, it can be very distressing for both child and parent, so here's some information to help you understand more about, “the bug that's going around.”
What is Gastroenteritis?
Gastro, an infection of the bowel, is very common in young children. This is usually the result of a virus, which are easily contracted from other people, even if they are immune to the virus. Viral forms of gastro (as apposed to bacterial) are more common in winter.
What symptoms may my child have?
Symptoms can include diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, crying, fever (above 38C), soreness in the nappy area, runny nose, sore throat, coughing and less commonly, bleeding or mucus present in stools (see your doctor if blood is present – this may be bacterial gastro or could be another illness). While vomiting may only last for around 24 hours, diarrhoea may persist for up to 10 days.
What should I do if my child has gastro?
If your baby is under six months of age, see your doctor in the first instance. Fluids are the most important thing to remember when your child has gastro, as loss of water due to vomiting and diarrhoea can lead to dehydration, which is a serious condition for young children. Small amounts of fluids should be given frequently. If you are breastfeeding, continue doing so, however if your child is old enough to be eating solids, this can be resumed after 24 hours. Offer a drink after each bout of vomiting and if your child is not drinking, see your doctor. If your child has not picked up after seeing your doctor or is appearing to get worse, do not hesitate to go back to your doctor or to receive a second opinion. Babies can very quickly deteriorate with gastro.
Do not give full strength fizzy drinks, juice or lemonade as this may increase both diarrhoea and dehydration. Mix 1 part juice to 4 parts of water.
Gastro is very infectious so 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.
Is there a treatment for gastro?
Unfortunately there is no miracle cure to treat gastroenteritis. The most important thing you can do to help is to ensure your child has enough water and electrolytes (i.e. as found in gastrolyte types of drinks), as well as keeping an eye out for more serious symptoms, listed below.
The hypothalamus in the brain raises body temperature as a way to fight infection. If your child has a fever and is uncomfortable, you may be able to help your child become more comfortable by administering the appropriate dose of children's Panadol (paracetamol) – check with your pharmacist or doctor. It's okay to take off your child's clothes to help reduce their fever, however if you are unable to control the fever, see your doctor. Do not give a cold bath.
Important signs to look out for
If your child displays any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor without delay as your child may be dehydrated and / or require admission to hospital:
- Sunken eyes
- Dry skin and tongue
- No / little passing of urine
- Difficulty waking
- Pale skin
- Difficulty breathing
As much as we don't like seeing our children sick, remember that you cannot totally exclude bacteria or viruses from coming into contact with your child – be it at school, daycare or other public places. It also helps in building a stronger immune system.
There are always natural remedies to help little ones (or even yourself) when it comes to upset tummies, vomiting and diarrhea.
BellyBelly's Health Panelist Tracey Habron suggests trying the following:
“Try mashed banana on dry toast. Or grate an apple, allow it to go brown. Mix in a little sugar and cinnamon to taste and eat slowly. Both of these have natural pectin in them that bind the stomach and intestines.
It is also important that the intake of fluids are maintained. Stick to water or the commercial rehydration formulas that keep mineral salt levels high in the body.
The most important aspect to all of this is to replace the pro-biotics that are being excreted rather quickly. The pro-biotics are crucial to helping with diarrhea. When the gut is in balance, it functions correctly. However, with diarrhea, there is a chance that an infection has killed off many of the pro-biotic well as many of them leaving the body with the diarrhea. By replacing them, you give the body a much better chance at getting better faster and then maintaining that balance. I personally recommend Fast-Tract Liquid pro-biotic or In-Liven certified organic probiotic superfood from ONE Group — the only one in existence. Not only is it replacing 13 strains of pro-biotics, it also contains 18 amino acids and 26 certified organic wholefoods. Super nutrition in a spoon of green powder – give 1/8th of a teaspoon to young children to start, building up to 1/4 of a teaspoon."
For more information on Fast Tract or In-Liven click here.
By being informed, comforting your child and providing them with what they need to get through a bout of gastro, you're already doing the very best job you possibly can as a parent – so don't be hard on yourself! Trust your instincts and take your child to their doctor if you are worried.