What You Need to Know: Gastroenteritis

Category: Newborns

We check with the expertson gastroenteritis.




What it is

An acute viral infection commonly known as the stomach flu. Rarely, this can be caused by a bacterial infection.



Fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, some may have rashes.


Treatment (and ways to help them recover faster)

Children can recover on their own with time. Most infections last about five to seven days but symptoms in some can last up to two weeks. Medications to alleviate the symptoms are available but do not help to eradicate the infection. Dr Lee Le Ye, consultant, Department of Neonatology, National University Hospital cautions that it is not recommended for young infants to receive anti-motility agents (for acute diarrhoea) as it can lead to gut problems.


When to see the doctor/bring to A&E

Signs of significant dehydration include decreased urine output or no urine output for more than eight hours, lethargy and significant weight loss of more than 10 per cent. Dr Low Kah Tzay, paediatrician, Mount Elizabeth Hospital adds that if your child is above three months, look out for bilious vomiting that is green or yellow in colour and unable to keep any fluids in or has diarrhoea more than once every three hours. If your child has such signs, you should bring your child to the A&E as intravenous fluids and hospitalisation may be required.



To avoid dehydration, ensure your child drinks more than he purges

by providing frequent (e.g. hourly) feeds.



If your child is more than six months of age, the doctor may sometimes prescribe oral rehydration therapy in addition to milk feeds. Also, bring your child to see a doctor if the stools are bloody or have a lot of mucous as this may be due to a bacterial infection rather than a viral infection. Dr Lee adds that changing to breast milk instead of formula will reduce the duration of these diarrhoea diseases.  



GE is spread by close contact with infected persons (sharing food/utensils) or touching contaminated surfaces then touching one’s mouth. Strict handwashing with soap should be done before meals and before feeding your child. Good bottle hygiene including sterilisation of all bottles before each feed is important. The rotavirus vaccination helps prevent rotavirus infection which is a common cause of gastroenteritis in this age group and can result in particularly prolonged and severe symptoms. 


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