With schools in Australia going back this week and many others around the world, just weeks into a new term, many parents are aware that in the next couple of months, children are likely to pick up any bug flying around after the break. For many parents the most tricky of these to deals with are forms of gastro bugs where a child is forced to be home from school due to diarrhoea and in many cases vomiting. These bugs are inconvenient due to the time parents have to take off work and also because most people have an understandable aversion to dealing with sick and poo!
The good news is that rarely are these gastro outbursts a cause for concern although there are some things that parents need to be mindful of. Whilst there is little we could say in a blog that would make gastro more pleasant to deal with, hopefully there are some tips we can share that will alleviate some of the concern.
These stomach bugs affect the intestines and are caused by different bacteria. These can be viral or requiring antibiotics or can come from food or water that was contaminated. The main symptoms you may see in your child are abdominal cramps and increased number of loose bowel movements. This can also be accompanied by vomiting but isn't in every case. Other symptoms you may see are a temperature meaning your child is fighting bacteria or headaches and lethargy which can be caused by the dehydration of their body due to the increased toilet visits!
This dehydration is the main risk associated with these bugs. It is important to ensure that your child is able to tolerate fluids and there are many electrolyte replacements you can buy which whilst not great tasting can help to avoid severe dehydration. If you see that your child is unable to tolerate fluids, is becoming more lethargic, pale or is passing urine much less than normal, it can be a sign to seek some medical attention.
In the vast majority of cases however, this isn't needed and your child is able to be treated at home for the duration of the bug. It is important to remember how crucial handwashing is and using disinfectant to avoid this bug spreading throughout the family is a must. If you are changing nappies or emptying potties, wearing gloves to do so is a great idea! Without driving yourself crazy, you want to try to disinfect or wash on a hot wash as much as possible that your child's bodily fluids have come into contact with. This includes toilets, toys, and linen. It can also be helpful to ensure that until your child is better they don't share towels, bath sponges, food or soft toys with anyone else.
Once your child is better, many childcare providers whether schools or creches will ask you to wait for 48 hours since the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting before they will allow your child to return. It is always important to understand the particular policy at the centre your child attends. Remember that whilst the extra time seems unnecessary it is there to protect other children as their immune systems take the whole of childhood to fully develop!