Gastroenteritis refers to infectious diarrhea, which occurs as a result of inflammation of a baby’s gastrointestinal tract. This includes the stomach and small intestines. Although gastroenteritis can affect anyone of any age, the infection is mostly common in infants and babies. Gastroenteritis affects about at least 3 million people inducing babies annually worldwide, leading to about 1 million deaths every year.
This infection is mostly transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. Transmission can also be through sharing of contaminated items.
The main symptoms of gastroenteritis are vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms include abdominal cramps, dehydration, fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and bloody stool, depending on causative agent. These symptoms do appear at most three days after infection.
Gastroenteritis can be caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites. Of these, viruses and bacteria are responsible in many infection cases.
Of all viruses that can cause gastroenteritis, rotavirus, astrovirus and adenovirus are the major cause of the infection in babies. Of all bacteria, campylobacter is responsible for causing the infection in babies. Gastroenteritis caused by parasites is usually as a result of infection by either Giardia lambia or Entamoeba histolytica.
There is no cure for gastroenteritis. Although a serious health problem in infants and babies, the disease is only managed until an infant or baby gets well.
Treatment available is therefore aimed at managing the disease and its associated symptoms. However, pediatricians normally recommend diagnostic tests to differentiate the infection from such other infections/diseases that present similar symptoms as appendicitis, urinary tract infection and short bowel syndrome among other infections/diseases.
Pediatricians normally advise on the best methods of managing the infection. Such include breastfeeding instead of formula, proper rehydration and proper diet. Infant and baby medications can be prescribed to help in the management of symptoms.
Gastroenteritis infections are recorded from across the world. However, there are more infection cases in developing counties compared to developed countries. This is largely attributed to effective vaccination programs that exist in developed countries where rotavirus vaccine is readily available. Babies who receive this vaccine get sufficient protection against the virus. The vaccine is normally given in doses with babies receiving the first dose when they are between 6 and 15 weeks.
In addition to the vaccine, parents with babies are usually advised to ensure high level of hygiene when handling their babies. This includes ensuring that baby food is not only properly prepared but prepared hygienically. Of all measures, breastfeeding is very important since breast milk contains important nutrients that boost a baby’s immune system, which goes a long way in helping fight against many illnesses that commonly affect babies.