Protect children from diarrhea, warns health expert

Protect children from diarrhea, warns health expert

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Extremely hot weather can be intolerable, but it is young children who often bear the brunt of it. The very hot conditions currently experienced in many parts of the Western Cape has led to a noticeable increase in the number of children brought to Western Cape Health’s facilities with symptoms like diarrhoea, dehydration, and pneumonia. Annually November to March marks a spike in children treated for diarrhoeal disease, and as February is usually the hottest month, the Department is advising adults to be extra watchful over children. When your child has a runny tummy, he/ she may have diarrhoea. Unclean hands can spread viruses that cause diarrhoea. During hot summer days, food can easily get spoilt. If eaten, this can also cause diarrhoea, which can cause to dehydration. As children can dehydrate very quickly, it can be life-threatening. Associate Professor Heloise Buys of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, says among diarrhoeal disease typically affects young children more seriously, as they are completely dependent on their caregivers and mothers to feed them and to give them all the fluids they need. “They often can’t verbalise that they are thirsty. Also, because they are so much smaller than adults, losing a small amount of fluid in their watery stools is a big deal. They more easily become dehydrated or go into shock,” says Buys. She advices to take the sign of the first loose stool seriously and immediately start with ‘replacement Oral Rehydration Solution’,” says Buys. You can make the solution at home by boiling a litre of water and let it cool down. Add to the water eight table spoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. Give the child small sips of the solution. Continue feeding the child. Give the child small, frequent snacks. Diarrhoea can last up 72 hours. Care for your child at home rather than sending him to the crèche or school.

Danger signs that you should immediately get medical help, include:

  • Blood in the child’s nappy or when they use the toilet
  • Vomits everything
  • Unable to drink or breastfeed
  • Tremors or shakes
  • Short of breath or has difficulty breathing

Not as alert as usual (the child is unusually quiet, not interested in their surroundings etc.

 Parents and caregivers can boost children’s health further by ensuring they receive their routine immunisations and that they are fed with breastmilk for as long as possible

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