DESCRIPTIONGastroenteritis is irritation or infection of the digestive tract. Sometimes it is contagious to others. The stomach, small intestine, and large intestine are involved. Gastroenteritis can affect both sexes of newborns, infants, and children (0 to 5 years).
Appropriate health care includes:
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications.
Hospitalization if your child has severe dehydration and needs intravenous fluids.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSVomiting.
RISK FACTORSPoor or improper diet.
Illness that has lowered your child's resistance.
Crowded or unsanitary living conditions.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEWash your hands often with warm water and soap, especially before eating or handling your child, to avoid passing germs from hand to mouth.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory stool and blood studies.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSPossible dehydration with 10 or more liquid bowel movements in 1 day. Signs of dehydration in your child may include lethargy, sunken eyes, dry mouth, sunken fontanels (soft spots on a baby's head), wrinkled skin, and little or no urination.
The child's condition should improve in 48 hours if the bowel is allowed to rest. If diarrhea or vomiting is so severe that the child cannot retain fluids, serious dehydration can occur.
Check the child's rectal temperature once or twice a day. Don't check more often, to avoid stimulating diarrhea.
Observe the child for signs of dehydration.
Wash your hands after handling the child or before preparing food.
MEDICATIONDon't use any non-prescription anti-diarrhea drugs without consulting your doctor. They can harm the child.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Reduce the child's activity until the illness improves. The child may resume normal activity 24 hours after vomiting stops.
DIET & FLUIDSFor a bottle-fed infant, prepare a mixture of 16 oz. (1 pint) water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar.
For a breast-fed infant, consult your doctor for diet instructions.
For an older child, offer the following clear liquids: apple, grape, or cranberry juice; sweetened herbal tea; "flat" cola or lemon-lime soda; gelatin and gelatin water; and bouillon.
For an infant under 1 year, give 1/2 oz. of fluid every 20 minutes. For a child over 1 year, give 1 oz. every 30 minutes. Don't exceed these amounts during the first day or two, even if the child is not satisfied. Offer only as much as you intend the child to have. Don't supplement clear fluids with milk or solid food.
When the child has been free of diarrhea for 1 day, offer one of the following low-residue foods: applesauce, banana, bread, cooked carrots, cooked cherries, eggs, ground meat, melon, noodles, cooked peaches, cooked pears, cooked peas, potatoes, rice, and sugar cookies.
If diarrhea doesn't recur within 2 hours after the solid feeding, continue feeding the child from the preceding list for 24 hours. Gradually work back to a normal diet.
Fluids are necessary, but the child's bowel needs rest.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Only after all symptoms subside. Some forms of gastroenteritis are contagious to others.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child's rectal temperature rises to 103F (39.4C) or higher.
Your child shows signs of dehydration listed under
Your child doesn't improve in 48 hours despite treatment.
An infant under 2 months old has symptoms of gastroenteritis.