Sunday, May 27, 2012

Common Childhood Illnesses - Diarrhoea and Vomiting

by Dr. Dan Giap Liang

Diarrhoea and Vomiting
Diarrhoea and vomiting are also common childhood illnesses. Most times, viruses are the culprit with the Rotavirus being the most common in children. Others, like norovirus and astroviruses, occasionally cause outbreaks, too. Food poisoning is a form of gastroenteritis, if the child consumes contaminated food or water containing bacteria. Sometimes, diarrhoea may be the only symptom, although associated complaints like vomiting and fever are common. Most cases, the illness lasts for three to six days and often, there is a history of contact with a person who has had similar symptoms.

The main concern when dealing with gastroenteritis is dehydration. Toddlers, and more so infants, can easily become dehydrated if they lose more fluid than they take in. Furthermore, they do not tolerate loss of fluids as well as adults and older children. The main aim of treatment is to ensure adequate fluids intake for that lost in the watery stools.


In most cases, the treatment is to feed the child sufficient fluids. There are a few types of oral rehydration salts in the market and most will suffice. Breastfeeding is to be encouraged, too. Water alone is discouraged, as the child also loses salt and minerals in the diarrhoeal stools. Hence, a mixture of salt and minerals are necessary besides water. If the child is hungry and can tolerate food, this can be continued, too. Some medications may be prescribed, although generally not necessary. Should the child be vomiting, too, wait for half an hour or so before attempting to feed again.

The trick is to give frequent and small amounts of fluids, so as not to over distend the stomach. Increase the amounts progressively once the child can tolerate. Fortunately, most children will recover gradually over a few days, On the other hand, do consult a doctor if the child shows signs of lethargy, persistent vomiting with worsening diarrhoea, spiking fever, sever abdominal pain or bloody stools. In such situations, it may be necessary to admit the child for observation and intravenous rehydration, if there is no improvement despite oral treatment.

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