Gastroenteritis is an inflammatory process that usually has an infectious origin and causes diarrhoea and vomiting. It is quite common in young children as it spreads easily. It is usually not serious, although you do need to make sure that the child does not become dehydrated during the acute symptom phase.
Inflammation of the stomach lining is called gastritis, while inflammation of the intestines is known as enteritis. When the inflammation affects both organs, gastroenteritis occurs. This is the irritation and inflammation of the entire digestive tract.
In infants and young children, gastroenteritis is most frequently caused by a virus. The best treatment in these cases is rest and bland diet. Infants should be vaccinated against the rotavirus to prevent from being infected by this virus, which is one of the most serious (see your paediatrician if you want to vaccinate your child).
Gastroenteritis can also be caused by bacteria (in this situation, the paediatrician will decide whether some form of antibiotic is required), or by parasites (this is much less common).
The main symptoms of gastroenteritis are vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, general malaise and diarrhoea. In babies, these symptoms can be accompanied by sleepiness, irritability or the child being clingier than normal. These symptoms usually last for a couple of days. If they last longer, or the child does not stop vomiting and can't keep anything down, you should take him to the emergency department to prevent him from dehydrating.
How do I care for my child?
When a child is sick, particularly if he is an infant, you should always go to your paediatrician to have him examined and prescribed the most suitable treatment in each case. However, if your child has gastroenteritis, follow these tips: