Help us protect young children against diarrhoea and pneumonia in the WC | Western Cape Government


Help us protect young children against diarrhoea and pneumonia in the WC

6 December 2023

Help us protect young children against diarrhoea and pneumonia in the Western Cape (WC)

The period between November and May, generally known as paediatric surge season, coincides with an increase in diarrhoea and pneumonia cases. Diarrhoea and pneumonia are the biggest health risks to young children and yet they can be treated and are often preventable.

If diarrhoea and pneumonia are not diagnosed timeously and treated, it can have lasting effects on a child’s long-term health and well-being. In November last year, there were 4 133 recorded cases of diarrhoea in children under the age of five at our facilities, while this year it has increased to 4 412 for the month. Likewise, cases of pneumonia have dropped from 3 295 to 2 375.

The Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness continues to appeal to parents and caregivers to take advantage of services available to keep their children healthy and safe. The Road to Health booklet is also a valuable resource on how parents and caregivers can help their child grow and develop. Our healthcare facilities are able to diagnose and treat diarrhoea and a host of other illnesses affecting children. Our staff are also able to provide advice and guidance on nutrition, which plays a role in the recovery from a diarrhoeal episode.

“Acute diarrhoea can be life-threatening to babies and children under the age of five if not diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. This is because their smaller bodies are more vulnerable to dehydration. If your baby or young child develops diarrhoea, seek medical attention straight away,” said Dr Hilary Goeiman, Director of Service Priorities Coordination at the Department.

During periods of high temperatures, there tends to be a noticeable increase in the number of children brought to our health facilities with symptoms like diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include passing little urine, dry mouth, few tears when crying, sunken eyes and weakness. Symptoms of severe dehydration are drowsiness, pale/ mottled skin, cold hands or feet, dry nappies, and fast and shallow breathing.

Apart from handwashing, parents and caregivers are advised to regularly wash feeding bottles, bowls, spoons, and teats before feeding young children. Unclean hands and feeding utensils can spread viruses that cause diarrhoea.

If a child has diarrhoea, seek assistance at the health facility 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; and
  • if there is blood in the child’s stools.