Q: How is acute gastroenteritis treated and how can we avoid it?
A: Acute gastroenteritis (AGE) is inflammation in the bowels caused predominantly by infectious agents. The germs damage the digestive lining of your gastrointestinal tract which leads to diarrhea and vomiting from poor digestion of the food.
Specific treatment will vary based on cause, but in all cases of AGE what parents should most watch out for is dehydration. Encourage your child to take sips of oral rehydration salt solution or pedialyte (and contrary to the remedies we heard about when we were kids, gatorade, flat soda, or rice water are not the same thing).
Even if your child may be very thirsty and may want to drink a whole glass of fluids in a few minutes, try to give them smaller amounts over a longer period of time. One ounce every 5 to 10 minutes tends to stay in their tummies better than 6 to 12 ounces taken in 5 minutes which usually ends up being vomited. If your child is too ill to keep any fluids down (either as vomit or diarrhea) consult a doctor to make sure that he or she is not too dehydrated.
Avoidance is based on common hygiene practices. Good hand washing (at least 20 seconds) at all times is recommended especially before food handling or after bathroom breaks. Cooking food appropriately is also a must. Make sure your drinking water and food are clean and safe. A rotavirus vaccine is available for babies to help prevent some causes of AGE in infants and toddlers. For babies six weeks to six months old, rotavirus vaccine can prevent complications from the illness.