Working in childcare means you’ll more than likely come across children who are unwell from time to time, but a little knowledge can go a long way.
Learn how to identify an illness and find out the right steps to take care of the child – and how to prevent germs from spreading.
What is gastro?
Gastro is short for gastroenteritis – a common illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea.
When we refer to having a ‘tummy bug’, it’s usually gastro and a range of things can cause it. It is an infection of the bowel, and it is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection.
Gastro is seen more in babies and children than adults and is usually more severe for them.
What to look for
The main gastro signs and symptoms are diarrhea and vomiting. While symptoms can vary in their severity, often the vomiting settles quickly while the runny bowel motions can continue for 7 to 10 days.
Other symptoms to watch for, as per the Royal Children’s Hospital, are:
- Feeling unwell, and not wanting to eat or drink.
- Stomach pains
- A fever
One of the more serious side effects of gastro is dehydration. This is particularly concerning for babies and young children as they can quickly become dehydrated and need to be seen by a doctor. Look out for signs of dehydration, including drowsiness, lack of urinating and a dry mouth.
How to treat gastro
In an early childhood setting, most policies would involve children’s parents being called to take them home. In the meantime, the following can help:
- Offer children a drink of water each time they vomit. It is often best in small amounts every 20 minutes to avoid overloading a sensitive stomach. For dehydration, an oral rehydration fluid can be effective to replace body salts and fluids.
- Allow children to eat if they are hungry – there is no need to limit food, however it is common to see gastro accompanied by a decreased appetite. This is not an issue either, but don’t let children stop eating for more than 24 hours.
- Encourage rest, or follow the child’s lead to allow them to be comfortable while dealing with gastro.
Preventing gastro and spread of illness
No matter how much we clean and disinfect, germs are a part of life. We can however take some precautions to minimise the risk and spread of infections like gastro.
To prevent gastro in your early childhood workplace, keep these things in mind:
- Wash hands thoroughly and regularly. Be extra careful after using the toilet, changing nappies and before preparing or eating food.
- Ensure children who are ill are kept home until they are well again. Usually wait 24 hours after symptoms are gone.
- Clean toys regularly and ensure they are cleaned after any case of contact with a child infected with gastro.
- Ensure bedding is washed.
Seek medical assistance if you have concerns
As with any illness, if you have concerns or don’t know what course of action is best for a particular situation, get in touch with a GP or nurse on call. In the case of gastro signs and symptoms that are severe or unmanageable, head to your local hospital.
Selmar’s child care courses cover hygiene and cleanliness in the workplace, so you will be up to the task when the situation arises when you’re on the job.
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