When a child is unwell, parents often get quite worried. In children under the age of five, diarrhea is a fairly common issue. Diarrhea is the rapid onset of loose, watery, and frequent bowel motions in children. Most children occasionally have diarrhea which typically doesn’t persist long and gets better on its own most of the time. The body uses diarrhea to get rid of germs, and most episodes range from a few days to a week. Fever, nauseousness, vomiting, cramping, dehydration, and even rashes are common symptoms that show up during diarrhea.
Summer months are bittersweet to say the least. Season of mangoes, popsicles, ice-cream, cold drinks but also excessive heat, sweating, dehydration and in case of young children – summer diarrhoea! Not only older kids, but young babies of a year and younger can also be a prey to it.
Dr. Vikram Kumar Singh, Senior Consultant, Neonatology & Paediatrics , Max Smart Super Specialty Hospital, Saket, Delhi in a conversation with Zee English shares tips on how you can protect your child from diarrhoea in summer.
What is this summer diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea is not an illness by itself but a symptom that there is infection in the digestive system. The most common virus causing diarrhoea is rotavirus followed by bacteria and other parasites. It shows up as loose watery poop that is passed 3 or more times in a day. While for adults it can cause weakness, in babies and children, it can cause dehydration, weight loss, and malnutrition. Diarrhoea is a leading cause death in young children.
Why are babies and young children under 1 year prone to summer diarrhoea?
Two major reasons why babies can contract diarrhoea in the hot summer months. One, extreme weather would mean higher possibility to cconsume contaminated cold water or foods. Second, their immune system is under-developed so virus or bacteria can easily cause infections in them. To quote research, children’s immunity reaches the adult level only by 7-8 years.
Prevention of diarrhoea in young children
Prevention of summer diarrhoea in children would require a 2-pronged approach. One would be hygiene and second would be strengthening your child’s immunity.
Since diarrhoea is a problem commonly encountered due to poor hygiene and sanitation issues; it is important to handle your baby’s food after washing hands thoroughly. Only safe, filtered drinking water and hygienically prepared foods should be given to children to prevent possibility of infections. In addition to hygiene, rotavirus vaccination can also protect your child from viral infections of the tummy.
Second comes to practises that will help strengthen your child’s immunity. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months is nature’s way to protect your child from infections while nourishing them. As the child starts eating solid foods, providing foods rich in vitamins and minerals – from fruits and vegetables is key.
Since diarrhoea is a digestive system issue, fibre in the form of fructooligosaccharides (fruc-toh-oli-go-sack-a-rides) have shown to help keep your child’s tummy healthy and protected from infections. Found naturally in fruits like banana, wheat, tomatoes; this fibre is gentle on your baby’s tummy. Once eaten, FOS helps increase the number of the good-for-your-baby bacteria, the ones naturally found in curd and fermented foods. These good bacteria, also called probiotics, help in neutralizing the infection-causing ones. Not only do they prevent but also help in reducing the severity of diarrhoea in young children.
Dos to prevent summer diarrhoea in young children
– Wash hands with soap before handling food meant for your young child
– Provide filtered and safe drinking water and hygienically prepared home foods
– Get your child vaccinated against rotavirus
– Exlcusively breastfeed for first 6 months
– Include probiotic-boosting fibre such as FOS in your child’s diet
Management of diarrhoea
– Treatment of diarrhoea involves replenishing the lost liquids through frequent poop. Oral rehydration salts or ORS is a sure shot way to prevent dehydration nd reducing the severity of diarrhoea.
– Ensure you read the labels nd look out for ‘WHO recommended formula’ written on the pack. Zinc supplements and nutritious food when the child is able to consume will help them recover sooner!
– Always consult your paediatrician for effective and safe ways to prevent and treat summer diarrhoea in children.