Intestinal Infections to Children – Symptoms and Care Instructions

Diarrhea is one of the intestinal infections that children, even adults, experience. Children under 1 year old often times vomit and have diarrhea, this is because the intestine function is yet to fully mature. If there are no other symptoms, there is no need for concern. But if there are intestinal infections present, fever, vomiting and diarrhea symptoms will be the first to appear so don’t be too relaxed under these conditions.

Inspection Points

Observe the child's mood and appetite

intestinal infections

It is common to be worried when a child is suffering from recurring sickness and diarrhea, as it is unclear exactly what infection is present. If there are no peculiar symptoms, as long as the child eats and plays normally and the mood is fine, there is no need to worry.

A baby’s defecation is usually softer and more watery than that of an adult’s. Often times it looks like diarrhea, especially in babies that are breast fed.

If the frequency of defecation increases and becomes more watery, this is the body’s functional response to quickly push bacteria into the intestines in order to quickly expel from the body.

Not only this, children’s stomachs are bottle-shaped. So if food intake is not controlled well or burping is neglected, the food will be vomited out. Coughing and jumping energetically can also cause this. If there is a normal increase of body weight and the physical condition looks fine, then there is no need to worry.

Observe whether or not there are other symptoms

Aside from sickness and diarrhea, if there are also fever and seizures, then there is likely some kind of intestinal infections present.

If there is constant sickness and diarrhea, presence of blood or a pus-like substance in the faeces and the child has no energy, seek hospital treatment. Such symptoms especially if there is high fever and the baby appears delirious, you must go to the nearest hospital immediately.

Care Points

Hydrate

When sickness and diarrhea is not too serious, more water than usual must be ingested. Electrolyte supplement is also fine or water with ice cubes or sugar cubes is also good. For children over 2 years old, mix water and a light beverage together. Wait for the soda bubbles to disappear before drinking. Fruit juice will increase the diarrhea so stick to drinking water.

Clean the mouth after vomiting

Clean up immediately after vomiting. Wrap a clean cloth around your finger and wipe the infant’s mouth to clean. If the child can gargle or rinse water in its mouth, use warm water to do so.

Maintain clean backside

The backside is easy to ulcerate with frequent diarrhea, and also easy to have diaper rash. Therefore, the diaper must be frequently changed. Use warm water and a damp towel to clean the area.

Eat easy to digest foods

If children do not want to eat and have recurring sickness and diarrhea, they may quickly become dehydrated. It is important then to observe that they should not skip food. Eat foods that are easy to digest. That include foods high in carbohydrates like bread, soup, mashed potato and carrot, banana with the rind removed, and other high fiber foods to have the necessary nutrients needed.

Dilute powdered milk

If diarrhea turns severe within the first 24 hours, use an extra 30-60cc of water when mixing powdered milk. This is because the lactose contained within the powdered milk will aggravate the diarrhea. After 24 hours, the original standard quantity should be used.

If after 3 days the diarrhea has not subsided, change to a milk powder that doesn’t contain lactose and use bean protein to substitute.

Emergency Room

Sudden fever and lack of energy

If sickness and diarrhea persists, dehydration is possible. If during this time the child cries with little energy and urinates less, this is the initial stages of dehydration and the child needs to be hospitalized immediately.

If dehydration worsens, the pulse will fluctuate, hands and feet will turn cold, lips and fingers will turn blue and there will be seizures. This is very dangerous and if not treated immediately, the life of the child is at risk.

Crying and delirious

If the child follows a repeated pattern of sudden bursts of crying and again suddenly stops, each time getting louder, then maybe there is an intussusception present. This condition is where one section of the intestines folds into (invaginates) another section preventing the waste matter from moving and ultimately causes the intestines to decay. If this is treated within a few hours, there will be no significant problems but otherwise, it will turn into a severe condition.

Possible Intestinal Infections

Intussusception

Causes and Symptoms

This is caused by one section of the intestines folding into another section. The three significant symptoms are vomiting, blood in the defecation and abdominal cramps. Children around one year old are more susceptible to this condition, especially those between 5 to 11 months old baby boys. The cause is not certain. Around 30% is caused by upper respiratory infection or viral gastroenteritis. There are other cases of different foods irritating the intestines causing their movement to quicken. Every time the intestines move, it will cause great pain. Each time one section of the intestines will fold into another, the blood vessels in the intestinal membrane will likewise fold together. Thus, cutting off the blood supply and the intestines will start to decay.

A special characteristic of this condition is it will appear to improve in intervals of 5-30 minutes and then again worsen. If the child holds their abdomen and cry or vomit or if their defecation is purple, go to the hospital immediately.

As the intestines are tangled up and unable to unravel, the child will gradually lose strength and enter a state of shock or high fever. Their pulse will become weaker and weaker, and breathing will become shallower. At first, food will be vomited until there is nothing left but green bile. The longer the intestines are blocked, the more the abdomen will swell. After 3-15 hours, the defecation will be full of blood or mucus.

Care Points

● When uncertain if there is intussusception, go for an x-ray or use contrast agents or an air enema to inspect the intestines. Make sure to be guided by health professionals in doing this.

● If it is certain that there is intussusception, a high pressure enema will be used to open the intestines or use ultrasound with saline solution to open the intestines.

● If none of these methods work and lots of time has been wasted, there will be serious dehydration together with damaged and ruptured intestines. It is very dangerous and it needs immediate surgery. If surgery is delayed, the condition may turn into peritonitis. It is best to go to the hospital immediately in the first instance, as the sections of the intestines would not have been folded together for long and therefore may not be too badly damaged.

● This condition may reappear. Children who contract this illness before must be closely observed with their condition.

Gastroesophageal Reflux

Causes and Symptoms

The connection between the stomach and esophagus is called the “cardia”. When food reaches the cardia, it will automatically open and allow food to pass from the esophagus into the stomach.

As sphincter muscles in children less than 1 year old are not yet fully developed, the muscle is easier to open. If there are no other conditions and the sphincter muscles have not yet developed, it is common for some milk to be vomited during feeding of breast milk or powdered milk, but this is no cause for concern.

When after 6 months the child begins to eat solid food, this situation will slowly begin to improve. The condition will disappear after the child is 1 year old.

Care Instructions

● If there is frequent vomiting due to gastroesophageal reflux, after feeding breast milk, powdered milk or solid food within 30 minutes to 1 hour, hold the baby upright or allow them to sit comfortably on a chair to settle the condition. This gives the body an opportunity to allow the milk to smoothly pass from the stomach to the duodenum and prevent reflux.

● If this method is ineffective, dilute the breast milk or powdered milk and feed.

Milk Allergy Diarrhea

Causes and Symptoms

For children with allergic rhinitis, eczema, bronchial asthma or German measles, then it is possible the diarrhea is caused by milk allergy. That is if there is diarrhea with no other symptoms. After ingesting cow’s milk or powdered milk containing milk protein or ice cream etc., milk protein leads to allergic reaction in the intestines. This causes diarrhea in the stomach and intestines, abnormal skin, bronchial asthma, as well as allergic rhinitis will appear together. This is because milk protein will damage the stomach membrane, preventing food from being digested.

On the other hand, when food cannot be digested, the child’s abdomen will swell up causing abdominal pain. The child will respond by crying, fussing and there may be vomiting and flatulence.

Care Points

● In order to diagnose whether or not there is a milk allergy, it is best to avoid eating milk protein for 2-3 weeks and observe the child’s condition.

● After stoppage of drinking milk, if diarrhea symptoms disappear then stop for a whole day and then start again. If within 48 hours the symptoms reappear, try the assessment for a third time. If each time symptoms re-emerge, then it is safe to assume there is a milk allergy.

● After milk allergy has been diagnosed, feed powdered milk without milk protein and eat foods according to a physician’s advice. This condition will improve as the child grows, hence the stomach, intestines and immunity function gradually develop.

Food Poisoning

Causes and Symptoms

This acute condition is caused by eating food which is naturally poisonous or contaminated with bacteria or other pollutants. Most cases appear during the summer season and will heal smoothly.

Of the foods that cause food poisoning, such as salmonella bacteria, vibrio parahaemolyticus, cereus or hospital coliform etc. or and other kinds of bacteria that spoils the food, thus causing foods to become poisonous.

Generally, bacteria will die when foods are heated or cooked properly. But this is not the same for naturally poisonous foods. If this type of food is eaten, anytime within 2 minutes to 24 hours, the condition will deteriorate and develop into sickness, diarrhea, headache and high fever.

This is not a life threatening condition and symptoms will disappear within 24 hours. However, children may have severe sickness and diarrhea with the tongue and mouth becoming very dry, the eyes will become sunken, and appear very weak due to dehydration. Infants will appear very weak when being feed and despite being very weak, they will cry and fuss in a feeble manner.

Care Instructions

● Recovery usually is within 24 hours. During 1-2 days after the condition, feed porridge and rice milk. Avoid dehydration and supplement electrolytes and the child will gradually recover.

● For infants, feed electrolyte supplements and feed specially designed diluted milk powder for use with diarrhea. Afterwards continue to observe the condition.

● With higher rates of food poisoning during summer, it is important to maintain a clean environment. Pay special attention to the hygiene of kitchen utensils being used to feed. It is good to use hot water or sunlight to disinfect the items. Food placed in the fridge is still not perfectly safe so pay special attention to use by dates, cooking methods and storage instructions etc. Not only this. Foods cooked and eaten on the same day as purchased is still the best.

● Pay special attention to the hygiene of meat products, especially beef and pork. Cooking after they have turned rotten, even if on a high heat, will still not remove the poison. It is best to eat meats that have been frozen, thawed and cooked.

Dysentery

Causes and Symptoms

This condition is caused by eating foods contaminated with bacteria and is a highly infectious condition. Even if the bacteria are of a small quantity, it is still easy to become infected. Therefore, children with weaker immune systems must be especially careful.

The most significant symptom of dysentery is diarrhea, but it is not to say that all cases of diarrhea are in fact dysentery. There will be abdominal pain, diarrhea and dehydration. When severe, it will be accompanied by a high fever, headache, vomiting, and defecation will also contain blood and mucus.

Care Instructions

● If the condition is not carefully monitored, it is difficult to identify the condition as dysentery. If there is severe high fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea, seek medical attention immediately.

● If children become infected with dysentery, they must be hospitalized for treatment. Water levels must be supplemented. After diarrhea, use warm water to clean the backside and regularly change clothes. Dispose all materials used in cleaning.

● In order to avoid becoming infected with dysentery, it is of primary importance to establish strict hygiene habits. Keep a regular clean lifestyle and it is also important to develop the habit of washing hands and brushing teeth each time after returning home or after defecation.

● Try to avoid crowded or unsanitary places. Food must be properly cooked before eating.

Cholera

Causes and Symptoms

Occur after drinking water or eating fruit and vegetables infected with vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria. Take special care with fish caught at the seaside. When infected with cholera, initially, there will not be any abdominal pain but defecation will be very watery. If the symptoms are severe, the defecation will be watery and will be accompanied by vomiting, fever and abdominal pain. Severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration so if the condition is not treated immediately, it could be life-threatening.

Care Points

● When infected with cholera, contact with other people should be avoided. In order to prevent excessive dehydration, it is important to supplement water and electrolytes.

● The best prevention against cholera is to avoid eating food or vegetables that have been contaminated. Water must be boiled and food must be properly cooked. It is also very important to wash hands before food preparation.

​That’s it when it comes to recurring sickness, diarrhea and intestinal infections a child or an adult can get. Always make sure to practice proper hygiene to avoid any infection.

Digestive System Diseases to be Knowledgeable about

Enteritis

Causes and Symptoms

Enteritis is one of the digestive system diseases. It can be divided into two main types: viral and bacterial enteritis.

In the majority of cases, children suffer from viral enteritis. Amongst the common types, there is what is known as pseudo-cholera rotavirus gastroenteritis. It is prevalent from the start of summer until the end of winter.

Infection is commonly from a bacteria-infected food, hands, toys, etc. In the highly infectious types, the disease can pass through the respiratory system. In most cases the symptoms will gradually improve after one week.

After becoming infected, the first symptom will be fever. Then after a short while this will be accompanied by sickness and diarrhea. At first, food will be vomited. In severe cases, bile and gastric fluid will also be vomited, and drinking water will also result in immediate vomiting. After a few hours diarrhea will begin. For babies who are still drinking milk, the diarrhea will resemble like rice water when washed.

Care Points

● Take an antipyretic to reduce the fever if necessary. For sickness and diarrhea avoid dehydration and from time to time supplement electrolytes.

● To supplement nutrition, you must act according to specialist doctors’ instructions. They provide specific instructions when it comes to feeding breast milk, rice porridge, electrolytes, barley tea etc.

● Because highly infectious, it is best to prevent infection with a vaccine. You must wash your hands before touching the baby. Take special care to wash your hands with soap after changing diapers.

Stomach Pain

Causes and Symptoms

Babies are easy to suffer from this condition if they ingest too many cold foods or sleep with their belly exposed. Stomach ache will cause a constant pain in the stomach. In severe cases, it will be accompanied by sickness and diarrhea. In other severe cases the stomach will be bloated and may result in seizures. Unlike enteritis, there will be no fever.

Care Points

● Ensure belly is not exposed during sleep.

● If there is diarrhea, ensure the baby is hydrated. When the diarrhea has stopped, feed the baby rice porridge. Continuing breastfeeding will not cause any problems.

Constipation

Causes and Symptoms

If the baby uses a lot of energy to defecate, even then it is still not possible to decisively diagnose constipation. Also includes the instance if they have not passed any for 3-4 days. A newborn will defecate 4-8 times per day. At around a year old, this will reduce to 2 times per day. After 4 years old, this will change to a maximum of once per day and a minimum of 3 times per week, this is normal.

Constipation is when the posterior painfully or hardly eliminates feces and the anus is bleeding. When the condition is severe, many days will pass before the waste is able to be expelled. Child constipation is divided into three. There's idiopathic constipation, functional constipation and medicine-induced constipation. 95% of child constipation is of the functional type. It is caused by insufficient water intake, inflammation of the anus or insufficient fiber intake over a long period of time, stress too can be a contributing factor.

Care Points

● For those who habitually use enemas, the child’s anal sphincter will have difficulty regulating itself. When severe, the sphincter muscle will become loose.

● If the child uses a lot of energy during defecation, place a thermometer into the anus. Then remove immediately to stimulate defecation.

● When the feces are too hard and the anus is hurt, take a bath in water that has been boiled and then left to cool. If it is the case that the feces contain blood, it is possible this is not caused by the tearing of the anus. So it is best to go and see a specialist pediatric doctor for examination.

Summary

So those are the digestive system diseases that you may encounter and should pay attention to. Under no circumstances ignore them just because they are common. Care must be given to avoid the illness developing into a severe condition.

Stephanie
 

Editor in Babiology, mother of two, highly passionate about sharing the pregnancy care and post delivery care learning with the readers.

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