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Gastroenteritis is quite a common disorder especially during winters and children and babies are the most at risk. The bout of gastroenteritis can last between 24 hours to 10 days. The agent responsible for gastroenteritis can be a germ or a bacterium but in the vast majority of cases it is, as for the flu, a virus. A virus named Rotavirus is most often responsible for gastro in children under five years. Other viruses that can cause gastroenteritis include adenovirus, enterovirus and others. The younger the child, the greater are the dangers of dehydration, which is one of the symptoms of gastroenteritis. Thus in case of infants younger than the age of 6 months, it is very vital that the guardians remain vigilant about weight loss and dehydration.
What is Gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is an infection that destroys the lining of the digestive tract and prevents water from being properly absorbed by the body. The water and electrolytes then get evacuated from the body by stool, causing severe diarrhoea. Gastroenteritis is extremely contagious thus when one family member gets affected by the ailments others in the family especially children become very susceptible. Every year during winter’s gastroenteritis affects thousands of people especially children. Infants and children are twice as susceptible as adults to Gastroenteritis. Also if proper care is not taken complications are also possible in children and infants.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Gastroenteritis in infants
Gastroenteritis mainly affects infants who are less than two years old, most cases being of infants who are between six and twelve months. The most common symptom of gastroenteritis in infants is diarrhoea. Diarrhoea in infants is characterised by decreased stool consistency and increased frequency that is more than three times per day. Other common symptoms of gastroenteritis include stomach pain, stomach cramps, upset stomach, nausea, loss of appetite and also vomiting. Fever and fatigue are also some other symptoms of gastroenteritis. Other than the presence of above mentioned symptoms to diagnosis gastroenteritis in infants the doctor will also check for signs of dehydration, which is the main risk involved in cases of gastro in toddlers.
How to Prevent Gastroenteritis?
Since infants and children are obviously more vulnerable than adults, it is important to observe certain precautions in everyday life during winters or during an epidemic. The first and foremost tip to prevent gastroenteritis in both children and adults is to observe proper hygiene. Wash your hands regularly especially before preparing meals, before eating, after using the toilet and more. Also wash the baby’s hands and teach your children to do the same regularly. Avoid contact with infected individuals and discourage your children from doing the same. Regularly clean your child's room and toys. Also if possible avoid crowds and traveling to public places or using public transport in winters. Although now it is now possible to vaccinate babies for gastroenteritis but these vaccinations are not included in the immunization schedule and are also not very highly recommended.
Gastroenteritis Treatment for Infants
In cases of gastroenteritis, the primary risk for babies is dehydration. Diarrhoea, vomiting and fever can promote loss of water and minerals from the body. In infants, dehydration can be very fast and they can lose around 10 to 15% of their body weight quickly. In case of viral gastroenteritis, the treatment is simply to give the babies oral rehydration solutions. In severe cases, hospitalization of the infant may be necessary. In emergencies, the baby will be quickly placed under nasogastric tube or infusion to be rehydrated. Mostly Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) are fed to the baby for rehydration purposes. It is also recommended that breast-feeding and habitual diet should be continued. It is also advisable to keep a record of number of stools and vomiting and number of baby bottles fed and the volume of liquid absorbed by the baby especially to keep tab on dehydration and to provide it to the doctor.