Gastroenteritis in children

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.

Symptoms

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:

  • If you are breastfeeding, you can continue to let your baby feed, even more often. Likewise, if you are using formula you can continue giving him a bottle but don't force it. 
  • Keep an eye out for symptoms of dehydration: not urinating, dry tongue, sunken front fontanelle, sunken eyes, etc.
  • If you have already started feeding solids, offer your baby fluids frequently, such as oral rehydration solutions, to prevent dehydration.
  • Once the vomiting passes, you can start with a bland diet, including cooked rice, apple compote, etc. Blevit plus AD is the cereal purée specially indicated for feeding during stomach upsets because it is made from rice and carrot, foods historically used in bland diets.
  • To prevent the illness from spreading, avoid contact with infected people and wash anything that may have been in contact with the sick person: bed clothes, toys, crockery, etc.
  • Prebiotics and probiotics may also be helpful as they can help recover the balance of intestinal flora.

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