Gastroenteritis in Babies: What Should You Do?

November 8, 2019
Gastroenteritis in babies is a condition that requires extra care and follow-up to prevent complications.

Gastroenteritis in babies is a disease that can lead to serious problems. For this reason, it’s important to catch it early and follow the appropriate plan of action.

To avoid complications, it is fundamental to know what the warning signs are. Also, there are specific things you can do to care for the baby so the condition improves. You should also evaluate the need for a rotavirus vaccination when the baby is still at an early age, always following the pediatrician’s recommendations.

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What is gastroenteritis in babies?

Gastroenteritis an inflammatory digestive disease that usually affects the stomach or intestines. It usually starts with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Diarrhea: Normal baby bowel movements are soft or liquid. This makes it difficult to identify diarrhea. However, if you notice changes in bowel movements or there seems to be a lot more of them, you should consult your pediatrician.
  • Vomiting: It’s important to differentiate vomiting from spitting up. To do this, it is crucial to know that vomiting occurs with a forced exit and spitting up consists of an easy exit of fluids that are usually accompanied by belching.
  • Fever: External temperature (measured in armpit or groin) greater than 37.5 ° C.
  • Abdominal pain: This is the most difficult symptom to identify since the only clue will be the baby crying.

What causes gastroenteritis in babies?

The main cause of this condition is an infectious disease that can appear due to viruses, bacteria or parasites. Concerning viruses, rotavirus is the most frequent and most important in developed countries. This condition may also be due to non-intestinal infections such as otitis or urinary infections. It can even appear with non-infectious diseases such as dietary or other more systemic disorders.

Crying baby with a bottle gastroenteritis in babies

Gastroenteritis in babies almost always appears from a viral or bacterial infection that affects the intestine. However, it can also have non-infectious causes.

What can I do to prevent this condition?

To prevent gastroenteritis in the baby, you’ll have to take into account the main cause. As we mentioned earlier, germs are the main causes and we must prevent transmission and contamination.

As a consequence, you should take the following series of actions to help prevent transmission:

  • Wash your hands frequently. This is one of the main steps to break the germ transmission chain.
  • Follow the recommendations on the preservation of baby’s milk carefully, whether it’s artificial or maternal.
  • Avoid contact with adults or children who show signs or symptoms of illness. If you’re not sure the person is contagious or not at the moment, it’s better safe than sorry: limit or cancel visits.
  • Don’t kiss babies on the mouth or hands if any possible infection is suspected. Saliva is a carrier of many pathogens.
  • Practice good hygiene of nipples and pacifiers. Clean your nipples and wash pacifiers daily.
  • Vaccine calendar up to date and appropriate. Ask your pediatrician or pediatric nurse for information about the rotavirus vaccine.

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When should I see a doctor?

Gastroenteritis in the baby is a disease that requires extra monitoring by parents and/or family. Among the most frequent complications are:

  • Dehydration due to excessive loss of water and electrolytes.
  • Hypoglycemia, as a result of lowering blood sugar levels.
  • Temporary lactose intolerance, due to the loss of enzymes in the walls of the intestine.
Gastroenteritis in babies baby with a fever

Gastroenteritis in babies is a reason for medical consultation when there are warning signs such as high fever, blood in the stool or vomiting.

To avoid these situations, it’s advisable to go to the pediatrician or the emergency department when any of the following warning signs appear:

  • If diarrhea occurs in babies less than 6 months old.
  • If the baby has a fever of 38ºC or higher.
  • When the baby vomits or refuses to be fed.
  • When weight loss has been confirmed.
  • If the stool contains blood or mucus.

The pediatrician may make a diagnosis of gastroenteritis after assessing the condition and symptoms. As a result of the assessment, you may request a stool test to identify the germ that caused the gastroenteritis.

Treatment of gastroenteritis in babies

When a baby starts have possible symptoms of gastroenteritis, parents and caregivers should monitor the condition closely and pay attention to food tolerance:

  • Continue breastfeeding. This is one of the most important steps to take when dealing with this condition in babies or infants. However, formula milk should not be diluted and you must keep the same doses when preparing formula.
  • After the evaluation, the pediatrician may identify the need for additional treatment based on the administration of oral supplements to regain hydration.
  • If your baby can’t keep fluids down, the doctor may evaluate the need for IV fluids to promote recovery and avoid serious complications.

Do you suspect this disease in your baby? If you identify the symptoms, see a pediatrician as soon as possible. They can determine the best treatment according to the child’s needs.

  • Casado Dones, M. J. (2010). Diarrea aguda infantil. Cuidados enfermeros. Revista de Enfermería (Barcelona, Spain).
  • Spain. Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo., Á., Godoy, P., Torner, N., Cardeñosa, N., & Martínez, A. (2009). Revista española de salud pública. In Revista Española de Salud Pública.
  • Lucrecia, S. C., & Blanca, C. G. (2009). Manejo actual de la gastroenteritis aguda (GEA) con soluciones de rehidratación oral. Nutricion Clinica y Dietetica Hospitalaria.
  • Giménez Sánchez, F., Martinón Torres, F., Bernaola Iturbe, E., Baca Cots, M., de Juan Martín, F., Díez Delgado, J., … Pineda Solas, V. (2006). El papel de la vacuna frente a rotavirus en los calendarios de vacunación infantil. Anales de Pediatría. https://doi.org/10.1157/13089923