Diarrhoea: Dehydration can be Prevented with an Easy Sugar Salt Solution
Since the start of the diarrhoea season in November 2012, there have been four deaths in public hospitals in the Metro and two deaths in the Central Karoo.
Tragically two children died at Tygerberg Hospital, one at False Bay Hospital and one in Khayelitsha Hospital. As per protocol, the cases are being investigated. This includes, among other things, home visits by environmental health practitioners.
Western Cape Government Health has a multi-sectoral team which meets weekly during the diarrhoea season. They drive activities such as training staff in effective clinical methods. They also check water quality, toilets and general sanitation. They focus on areas where cases of diarrhoea occur and conduct outreach activities going from house to house to sort out the problem. This co-ordinated approach has seen a significant drop in the number of diarrhoea deaths over the past few years.
Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says: In health terms the diarrhoea season ends in May. During this time we must be very conscious of hygiene and cleanliness and protect our very young children from dehydration. Death as a result of diarrhoea and dehydration is totally preventable by taking some basic precautions.
By making up a simple solution of one litre of water, eight teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt, and giving it to the patient little sips at a time, as often as possible, you can save a life
Continue to feed the child as usual. Continue giving breast milk. Do not give the child herbs to dry out. Do not give an enema as this will just make the child lose water faster. This is very dangerous.
Babies and small children often get diarrhoea and vomiting in summer when there are many flies and food goes bad quickly. Cleanliness is of utmost importance during this time. People should be especially hygiene aware when they are working with food stuffs. Dirty bottles, teats and food that have been left outside pose health risks.
Small children are more at risk of diarrhoea because they can dehydrate so quickly. People don't realise that a child can die within a few hours if not treated correctly. Every time a child vomits and her stomach runs, she loses water and essential salts. If she loses too much water she will become very ill and may die. With small babies and children under 6 months this can happen in a few hours.
Signs of diarrhoea are that the child does not want to drink, vomits up everything, is having spasms, is weak and stares blankly, has difficulty breathing, nappy remains dry, blood in stools and if the child cannot be woken. This is considered an emergency. Take the child immediately to the clinic/hospital. Don't wait in the queue but speak urgently to a health worker.