Gastroenteritis in Infants

Gastroenteritis in InfantsGastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and small intestine. It may be just a mild stomach disorder but, in worst case scenario, frequent stools can lead to dehydration (for general information see gastroenteritis) due to loss of fluid and essential chemical substances in the body.
Infants who take artificial food is more prone to this disorder that infants who are feeded naturally, mainly because breast milk contains antibodies that protect the digestive tract from infections.

Symptoms

An infant has frequent, rare, green and watery stools. In mild cases, the infant is cheerful and eats well, but in severe cases the child is unhappy and irritable, eats poorly, can vomit and has a slightly elevated temperature. The signs of dehydration are dry mouth, inflammation of the eyes and a very large fontanelle, sluggishness and irritability. In strong dehydration the skin loses elasticity, the baby refuses the food and the temperature can be high or low.

Frequency

Since more infants are feeding with mother’s milk, gastroenteritis in infants is much less common today. Usually, mild cases occur and they are treated before severe dehydration occurs. Strong dehydration may lead to brain damage, and even death.

What to do?

You can treat mild gastroenteritis by using recommended self-help measures (below). However, contact your doctor immediately if you notice symptoms of dehydration or if your infant vomits all food in a period of six hours (after eating).
If you are feeding infants with the bottle, be sure to thoroughly sterilize it. Never put a bottle in your mouth and do not touch it before you give it to your baby.

Treatment

Self-help: if you are feeding a baby with a bottle, stop giving milk for 24 hours and replace the meals with lukewarm boiled water with a teaspoon of glucose and half a teaspoon of salt on every half liter. On the second day, replace this liquid with artificial milk by mixing a quarter of the usual amount of powdered milk with the usual amount of water. On the third day, give the infant half of the usual amount, and the fourth quarter of that amount. During this four day treatment, give your baby a normal daily amount of fluid, but allocate it to the lesser amount you will give him approximately every hour. From the fifth day the baby should be healthy, so that you can feed it normally. If you are breast-feeding, contact your doctor.

Professional help: call a physician whenever you are concerned about the baby. In mild cases, he will only advise you on how to feed your baby or how to give him a fluid and may prescribe antidiarrheal medicine. In a serious case of gastroenteritis, the infant will be admitted to a hospital where he will get fluid and essential chemical substances by infusion. After a while, it will go back to the food with artificial milk in a similar way as described above.