Mums and Dads, ever had to deal with GASTRO in the house hold???

Gastro is a very common condition that brings children in to Emergency departments, a few siblings at a time sometimes. The key is: small amounts of fluids often. Well, there’s a bit more to it than that…

What is it?
Gastro (Gastroenteritis) is caused by an infection of the bowel. Classically is causes diarrhoea (loose / watery poo) and sometimes vomiting as well. It is usually caused by a viral infection, but can also be caused by bacteria and other bugs. It is highly contagious, spread by the bugs in the poo (sounds gross! But important to know)

Who can be effected?
All kids and adults can get Gastro. Babies can become quite ill from Gastro because they can get dehydrated very quickly. All babies less than 6 months old or children with severe bowel conditions should be seen by a doctor if you are concerned they have Gastro

What happens when your child has Gastro?
They may start with vomiting, then develop diarrhoea
OR they might just have diarrhoea
Generally the vomiting lasts a few days and the diarrhoea can continue for up to 5-10 days
They are usually clingy, and are off food and drinks
They may also have stomach pain / cramps or fever
They may also develop signs of dehydration (see below)

What can we do to treat Gastro?
Because most Gastro is caused by a virus there is no treatment. Some bacterial Gastro can be treated with antibiotics. Usually if a child with Gastro needs to come in to hospital it is mostly to fix the dehydration. We can do this in hospital with:
– Medication to stop the vomiting so they can keep drinking fluids
– Fluid through a nasogastric tube in babies and small kids (tube from the nose to the stomach) or through the IV (a drip)
Most children can manage at home with the following tips..

What can you do at home?
For breastfed babies, offer smaller feeds more frequently
For all other children aim to give small amounts of clear fluid often, even a few mouthfuls every 10-15 minutes can help. If they are taking smaller amounts at a time they are more likely to absorb it and less likely to vomit. If they have a big vomit or bout of diarrhoea try to give a bit more fluid afterwards. Fluids that can be given include:
– Rehydration solutions (eg. Gastrolyte, Hydralyte, Repalyte) are the best way to replace the fluids and salts lost in Gastro
– Water
– Diluted cordial or juice (do not give undiluted)
– Other fluid containing foods: jelly, custard, soups, icy poles etc
They will most likely be off their solids and that is ok for about 24 hours as long as they are getting fluids in.
It is important to not give any medication to stop the diarrhoea. In hospital we can try a medication to stop vomiting but this shouldn’t be given without consulting a doctor

What symptoms should prompt you to see a doctor?
Dehydration is the main concern with Gastro. Things that might indicate that are:
– Dry lips and mouth, sunken eyes, cold hands and feet, mottled / blotchy skin
– Lethargy, poor activity, drowsiness in older children
– Sleeping a lot and not waking for feeds in babies
– Wet nappies / passing urine less than half of usual
– Severe vomiting (can’t keep anything down), profuse diarrhoea (more than 8 small watery bowel actions or more than 3 large watery bowel actions)
Possibility of something other than a viral Gastro:
– blood and mucus in the diarrhoea
– green vomits
– high fevers for more than a few days
– diarrhoea more than 10 days
– any other symptoms that concern you
Occasionally after a bout of Gastro children may getting blood in their poo (usually from a temporary lactose intolerance and might need to be off dairy for a while) See a doctor if this happens and they can advise you if this is occurring and how to manage it

What can you do to stop the spread of Gastro?
– Firstly remember that Gastro is usually very contagious, so it’s important to keep your child home from school / day care until the diarrhoea stops
– At home, try to keep them away from the other children where possible and try to make sure everyone washes their hands with soap before eating / touching their mouth or after touching the child with gastro
– If you / carer are handling your child’s nappies or dirty underwear make sure everything the poo has touched is cleaned and that soiled nappies and clothes are thrown out or washed separately. And of course wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
It’s hard with toddlers to avoid all these things and sometimes more than one child (or the parents) will get it, but trying these things might help stop it spread.

Hope this helps!

Dr. Nelu x


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