The season to be alert for childhood diarrhea | Western Cape Government

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The season to be alert for childhood diarrhea

10 December 2019

During the 2018/2019 paediatric surge season, which is the period from November to May every year, the Western Cape Government Health reported that 1.3% of children under the age of five years old were treated at Primary Health Care facilities (PHC) for severe diarrhoea with dehydration in the Metro, of which 377 children were admitted to the Mitchells Plain District Hospital and 351 at Khayelitsha District Hospital, which is the highest reported cases treated at district hospitals in the metro.

“Over the past five years, the Western Cape Government Health has 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,” said Western Cape Health MEC, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo.

“Diarrhoea is a highly infectious virus that thrives in hot weather, is transmitted by flies and preys on babies and kids. 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,” said Professor Hassan Mahomed, Public Health Medicine Specialist at the Western Cape Government Health.

“Our Western Cape Primary Health Care facilities see an increase in the number of children under five suffering from various degrees of dehydration due to infectious diarrhoeal disease during surge season,” said Professor Mahomed.

How 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
  • By exclusive breastfeeding, when the baby receives only breast milk and nothing else
  • Use the home-made sugar-salt solution in the first 24 hours of the child contracting diarrhea

If your child has diarrhea, give them an oral hydration solution made up by mixing 1 litre of cooled boiled water with half a teaspoon of salt and 8 teaspoons of sugar.

IMPORTANT! If your child shows any of these signs of dehydration, please take them to your nearest health facility or call an ambulance on 10177 immediately:

  • 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 more than 50 in a minute
  • Is under 2 months and has a fever and is not feeding well (drinking).
Media Enquiries: 

Monique Johnstone
Principal Communications Officer: Klipfontein / Mitchells Plain Substructure
Western Cape Government Health
Highlands Drive, Mitchells Plain
Tel: 021 370 5000/5129
Mobile: 079 908 4856