Acute gastroenteritis in children

Gastroenteritis is very common in young children, especially in the first three years of life. It is normal for each child to have 2-3 episodes of gastroenteritis per year during this period.

Gastroenteritis is an infection, usually caused by viruses, that causes diarrhea, and, sometimes, fever and vomiting. They are usually mild processes and last less than 8-10 days.

It is considered that there is diarrhea when the number of stools increases with respect to the normal frequency of the child, or when they are liquid.

How should gastroenteritis be treated?

The infection itself does not have to be treated, because, in most cases, the cause is a virus and there is no treatment for them. Only when bacteria are suspected to be the cause should antibiotics be used – a stool sample must be collected and cultured to check.

The most important thing is to prevent dehydration. Diarrhea increases the loss of fluids with bowel movements, and if this is not compensated by drinking an extra amount of water, the child can become dehydrated. Babies and younger children are the ones most at risk of dehydration and special care must be taken with them.

For babies under 6 months:

  • if the baby takes breast milk, offer the breast more often
  • if baby is on formula, offer small but frequent amounts

In those older than 6 months:

  • offers frequent sips of an oral rehydration solution (“rehydration solution” or “oral rehydration salts”), which you can find in pharmacies.

Is it necessary to make a special diet in gastroenteritis?

While the child is vomiting or if he or she has lost a lot of fluids, it is better not to give him or her anything to eat until the vomiting stops and concentrate on drinking little by little and regaining his or her normal hydration level.

Once the most acute moment has passed, if the child is hungry, they can eat their usual food, but until the diarrhea is over it is better to avoid:

  • foods that are fried or very rich in fat, such as oils, butter, cold meats …
  • fruit juices and sugary sodas – can make diarrhea worse because of the type of sugar they contain
  • cow’s milk, due to its lactose content. In gastroenteritis the mucosa of the intestine is damaged and a transient intolerance to lactose occurs. It is better to use a lactose-free milk (“lactose free milk”) or an almond or oat milk (almond milk, oat milk) for a few days. They can have yogurt, which is usually beneficial
  • hot spices

When should I go with my son or daughter to the hospital?

Seek urgent medical attention if the child:

  • is moderately or severely dehydrated (dry mouth, dull eyes, recent pee, cries without tears, cold hands and feet), especially if he vomits and cannot hold down any fluids.
  • is down or sleepy, or has a lot of pain in the abdomen
  • is a baby under 3-4 months of age
  • is a girl or boy with a disease of the heart, kidneys, or her immune system is not working well for any reason

I’ve heard that probiotics can help

If taken at the beginning of gastroenteritis, some probiotics, such as S. boulardii and Lactobacillus GG can shorten the time of diarrhea – ask to your pediatrician

My son had gastroenteritis a few days ago and he still has diarrhea …

Sometimes the intestine becomes a little swollen after infection – make sure you have removed the lactose and do not give fruit juices, soft drinks or sugary products until it is well.

If the diarrhea lasts more than 14 days, consult your pediatrician, it may be necessary to do some tests.

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