Paediatrician, Dr Adaugo Onyedinma Explains Why Viral Gastroenteritis Is More Pronounced In Children And How To Prevent It

Viral gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection marked by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever. The most common way to develop viral gastroenteritis — often called stomach flu —is through contact with an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water.

According to a consultant paediatrician, Dr Adaugo Onyedinma, gastroenteritis is more pronounced in children and this is caused by reduced immunity and immaturity of their intestinal lining.

Dr Onyedinma, in an interview with PUNCH, said:

“Reduced immunity leads to reduced ability to fight infections and immature intestinal lining encourages easy multiplication of the organisms causing gastroenteritis.

“Gastroenteritis is also more likely to be severe and cause complications such as dehydration in children. It is mostly caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.”

The consultant paediatrician said the treatment of the ailment could be divided into two aspects. Onyedinma added:

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“Prevention and treatment of dehydration; severe dehydration is the commonest cause of death among children with gastroenteritis.

Oral rehydration therapy is very important to replace lost body fluids and should be given as soon as a child has diarrhoea.

Oral zinc tablet is also given to such children for 10 to 14 days. If the child is not tolerating the ORS or stooling and vomiting become more persistent, then it is important to take the child to the hospital for intravenous fluids to be given.

“Specific treatment; this is only possible for gastroenteritis caused by some types of bacteria, protozoa and also dysentery. However, the occurrence of gastroenteritis in children is viral and would not require antibiotics.

Above all, the decision to give antibiotics to children with gastroenteritis should be made by a doctor. Fluid replacement is the most important intervention in children with diarrhoea.”

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She further advised Lagos State residents, given the current outbreak, to embrace regular hand washing, maintain food and water hygiene, improve environmental sanitation and reduce contact with those with the symptoms of the disease.

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