Be on high alert for symptoms of diarrhoea

Proper hand washing is a simple and effective way to avoid contracting diarrhoea.

The provincial health department has called on parents to be on the lookout for symptoms of diarrhoea.

During the last paediatric surge season, from November 2018 to May 2019, the department reported that 1.3% of children under the age of 5 were treated at primary health care facilities (PHC) for severe diarrhoea with dehydration in the metro. Of these, 377 children were admitted to Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital and 351 at Khayelitsha District Hospital, which is the highest reported cases treated at district hospitals in the metro.

Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo said over the past five years they have been able to reduce the number of deaths associated with diarrhoea disease in the province.

“However, parents or caregivers are encouraged to be on high alert during the summer season and should encourage good hygiene practices in their home and holiday environment.”

Professor Hassan Mahomed, public health medicine specialist for the department, said diarrhoea was a highly infectious virus that thrived in hot weather; was transmitted by flies and preyed on babies and children. Children who are malnourished, those who have not been immunised and perhaps have other illnesses are far more likely to contract gastro and develop complications as a result, if the correct hygiene practices are not followed.

“The areas most affected during paediatric surge season are those with poor infrastructure and lack of access to clean water and good sanitation.”

He said they had seen an increase in the number of children younger than 5 suffering from various degrees of dehydration due to infectious diarrhoeal disease during surge season.

If your child has diarrhoea, give them an oral hydration solution made up by mixing one litre of cooled boiled water with half a teaspoon of salt and eight teaspoons of sugar.

If your child shows symptoms take them to your nearest health facility or call an ambulance on 10177 immediately.

Signs of dehydration

* Vomiting (unable to keep solids or fluids down)

* Unable to breastfeed

* Convulsions (fits)

* Lethargy or depressed level of consciousness

* Diarrhoea with sunken eyes and a sunken head (fontanelle)

* Diarrhoea with blood in the stool

* Chest in-drawing (chest sucking in with breathing)

* Your child has a cough and a breathing rate of more than 50 in a minute

* Is under 2 months old and has a fever and is not feeding well (drinking).

To prevent diarrhoea

* Improve access to clean water and safe sanitation.

* Promote education about hygiene.

* Improve weaning practices.

* Immunise all children, especially against Rotavirus.

* Keep food and water clean.

* Wash hands with soap (the baby’s hands too) before touching food.

* Practice the sanitary disposal of stools.

* Use the home-made sugar-salt solution in the first 24 hours of the child contracting diarrhoea.

* Monique Johnstone is the principal communications officer for Klipfontein and Mitchell’s Plain substructure.