Feb 2020 2nd edition

Diarrhoea can be fatal: Watch your kids!

Written by Allison Cooper

An increase in diarrhoea cases, referred to as ‘surge season’, takes place between November and April annually, due to the warmer summer temperatures which promote the spread of germs.

This is according to the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Zahid Badroodien, who stressed that children under the age of five are the most at risk of developing complications from this preventable disease.

Over the past decade, City Health and its partners have increased diarrhoea education and awareness initiatives and have introduced various measures at clinics and hospitals to fast-track medical attention for children who show symptoms of dehydration.

While two fatalities have already been reported during this surge season, the good news is that the season appears to be off to a slow start, Councillor Badroodien confirmed. He said figures show a 25 percent decline in the number of reported cases for the 2019/20 season, compared to 2018/19, and severe dehydration hospital admissions are down by 30 percent.

“We can only speculate about the drop in the caseload, but it is encouraging, particularly the drop in hospital admissions and the decline in dehydration cases.

“To date, temperatures have been reasonably mild, but this is likely to change in the coming months. We all need to be on alert for symptoms of diarrhoea in young children. We also need to ensure that our personal hygiene habits are geared towards preventing the spread of germs. Prevention is always better than cure,” said Councillor Badroodien.

He added that research has shown that hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent diarrhoea from spreading. “Please wash utensils and hands before eating. In the case of young children specifically, wash their bottles, bowls, spoons and teats before feeding them,” he said.

Diarrhoea is a viral infection. To ensure that children get the help that they need in time, parents and caregivers can lookout for various symptoms, including vomiting; loose, watery stools (runny stomach) and low energy.

Dehydration symptoms include;

  • passing little urine
  • dry mouth
  • few tears when crying
  • sunken eyes and
  • weakness.

Severe dehydration can present with drowsiness, pale or mottled skin, cold hands or feet, dry nappies and fast and shallow breathing.

“Caregivers are advised to keep their children hydrated, by giving them rehydration solution, breast milk, thin soup or very thin porridge and to feed it to them a little bit at a time. However, if you’re unsure, play it safe and get the child to the nearest clinic as soon as possible, where a proper assessment can be made and appropriate action taken,” said Councillor Badroodien.

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