Warning: Spike in diarrhea cases in young children

The City of Cape Town said it was concerned after a major spike in diarrhea cases amid the surge season despite the warning last month.

A DIARRHEA WARNING WAS ISSUED A MONTH AGO

Mayoral committee member for community services and health, Councillor Patricia Van der Ross, said there was a 70% increase in children younger than five presenting with diarrhea at City of Cape Town’s clinics, compared to the same time last year.

“Surge season data tracks cases of diarrhea, pneumonia, and severe acute malnutrition in young children. If these are not diagnosed timeously and treated, it can have life-threatening consequences.

‘The very hot conditions in the city have led to a noticeable increase in the number of children brought to health facilities with symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration,” Van der Ross said.

LET’S LOOK AT A COMPARISON BETWEEN LAST YEAR AND THIS YEAR:

City clinics saw 1 710 cases during January 2021, and this has increased to 2 908 cases during January this year. These clinics provide services to diagnose and treat diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, and a number of other ailments affecting children.

“We’re not yet halfway through the season, and the numbers are concerning. These illnesses are the biggest health risks to young children and yet they can be treated and are entirely preventable.”

Van der Ross urged parents and caregivers to continue with health protocols and to seek treatment at their local clinic as soon as they observe symptoms or suspect one of these ailments.

WHAT PRECAUTIONARY STEPS CAN YOU TAKE?

Apart from handwashing, parents and caregivers are advised to wash bottles, bowls, spoons, and teats before feeding young children.

  • Unclean hands can spread viruses that cause diarrhea.
  • During hot summer days, food is easily spoilt. If eaten, this can also cause diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration.
  • It is important to prepare and store food safely.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after going to the toilet, changing the child’s nappies and before preparing feeds.

WHAT CAN YOU GIVE YOUR CHILD?

At the child’s first loose stool, prepare the replacement oral rehydration solution by doing the following: boil a litre of water and let it cool down. Add to the water eight teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. Give the child small sips of the solution very frequently, preferably from a cup. If the child vomits, wait 10 minutes then continue, but slower. Avoid giving large amounts of the solution at once as this may cause them to vomit.

Furthermore, Van der Ross urged breastfeeding mothers to continue breastfeeding and give the child small, frequent meals.

“Diarrhea can last 48 to 72 hours. Care for your child at home rather than sending him to the crèche or school.

“When babies and young infants lose even a small amount of fluid in their watery stools, it will cause them to become dehydrated quickly. Dehydration can be life-threatening,” she said.

WHEN SHOULD YOU TAKE YOUR CHILD TO A DOCTOR?

If a child has diarrhea, seek assistance at the clinic or Community Health Centre nearest to your home. Do not wait until the child shows the danger signs of dehydration, namely:

  • · If the child refuses to take in fluids or breastfeed
  • · If the child starts vomiting all fluids after drinking
  • · If there is blood in the child’s stools

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