News Release: High Alert for Diarrhoea season
01 February 2021
Summer is in full swing and with it comes the heightened risk of your child contracting diarrhoea.
Four hundred children under the age of 5 have been treated for diarrhoea without dehydration at health facilities in the Garden Route District from November until end December 2020. A further 105 have been admitted to hospital for treatment. Western Cape Government Health’s annual Paediatric Surge Season (PSS) is from November to end May – a time during which health facilities see an increased number of patients suffering from gastroenteritis.
Staff are on high alert for patients, especially children under the age of five, that show signs of dehydration. Dehydration, due to gastro, remains one of the main causes of illness and death in children under the age of five years. Facilities have an Oral Hydration Solution (ORS) corner and portable water bags have been distributed to crèches where access to water is limited. There are also fast lanes at facilities for babies and toddlers with diarrhoea.
Causes and prevention
Diarrhoea is a highly infectious virus that thrives in hot weather, is transmitted by flies and preys on babies and kids. Children who are malnourished, those who have not been immunised and perhaps have other illnesses are far more likely to contract gastro and develop fatal complications as a result.
Some of the leading causes of diarrhoea are dirty water, dirty toilets, unwashed hands, bottle feeding, uncontained waste (illegal dumping), contaminated food and flies. It might not always be possible, but we should always aim to keep our hands, food, cooking utensils and toilets clean. Dustbins must be closed, animal droppings collected and thrown away, and food scrapings, used nappies and sanitary towels put into a plastic bag, knotted securely and thrown into a dustbin. Remember to wash your hands after completing these tasks.
It is important to maintain a high level of hygiene to ensure that your family is gastro free this season.
Sadly, even with the best hygiene, many will still get gastro. Try the oral rehydration solution to replenish lost body fluids. Take the solution with you should you need to take your child to the clinic so that your child does not dehydrate on the way. Using a clean 1 L bottle, mix 1 L cooled boiled water with ½ a teaspoon of salt and 8 teaspoons of sugar. Mix well.
If your child gets diarrhoea, check them for these signs of dehydration:
• Dry or sticky mouth
• Few or no tears when crying
• Lack of urine, or only a very small amount of dark yellow urine
• Dry, cool skin
• Tiredness and irritability
• Headache and stomach ache
First 1 000 Days:
Principal Communications Officer
Garden Route and Central Karoo Districts
Western Cape Government Health