Diarrhoea

423 DIARRHOEA

Diarrhoea or Diarrhea is a disorder that causes you to pass looser or more stool than usual. Often symptomatic of Gastroenteritis, which is the inflammation of the stomach or intestine as a result of microbial infection, Diarrhoea usually lasts for 2-4 days without the need for treatment. Severe diarrhoea, on the other hand, poses a threat to your life. The reason behind this is the dehydration that your body undergoes as it steadily loses fluids with every passing of motion. Infants and children, malnourished and people with weakened immunity have the highest risk of falling prey to such infection. To put that into perspective, stats show that 760,000 children under the age of 5 die every year because of diarrhoea which is the second leading cause of death in this age group.

Diarrhoea, however, is a disease that can be prevented if a number of simple measures are taken. The risk of diarrhoeal outbreak can be significantly reduced by maintaining provisions for safe drinking water, facilities for safe and hygienic disposal of human waste and proper hygiene when it comes to washing your hands and body. 

Causes

What causes diarrhoea?

Diarrhoeal infections are caused by ingestion of contaminated food and water, contamination by dirty hands or exposure to faecal matter. Some common germs that cause gastro-enteritis and subsequently diarrhoea are:

  • Bacteria. E.g. Salmonella or Escherichia (E. coli)
  • Viruses. E.g. Norovirus or rotavirus
  • Parasites. E.g. Giardia intestinalis

Symptoms

What are the symptoms?

You may experience one or more of the following:

  • Watery stools
  • Upset stomach or cramps
  • Urgent need to use the toilet
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration

Bouts of diarrhoea dissipate after a couple of days but one needs to stay constantly hydrated during this period.

There is no substitute to drinking plenty of fluids. Oral Rehydration Solution or ORS mixed with water, works wonders in restoring lost minerals and salts.

Maintain a normal diet, low on or devoid of spice, salt and sugar. For babies with diarrhoea, you should continue to feed/breastfeed them as normal.

For adults, a case of diarrhoea that’s lasted more than a week is a serious cause for concern and medical help must be sought immediately.

Prevention Tips

Safe drinking water:

Developing nations have become a breeding ground for infectious diseases owing to negligible or subpar standards of hygiene. Water contamination and consequently, a limited access to safe drinking water is one of the most persistent contributors to the problem. Vessels for storing water at home must be covered at all times and must never be contaminated by direct contact with potentially polluted hands. As an added precaution, treating water before drinking is always a good practice.

Toilet hygiene:

Timely and proper disposal of human waste is an oft ignored aspect of hygiene and sanitation that leads to propagation of disease causing microbes. One must always ensure that the toilet in use is connected directly to the sewage or on-site sanitation system for instant disposal of fecal matter. The toilet must be flushed after every use and a toilet cleaner and brush must be used to clean the pan regularly to avoid any build-up of waste and germs on the inner surfaces of the toilet. Equally important is the need to clean the area around the toilet, namely the seat, cistern, flush handle and so on, spotless and germ free. The toilet must also be kept covered at all times to prevent flies from becoming carriers of germs and subsequent contamination of the environment in and around the home.

Cloths and brushes used to clean the toilet must be kept separate from cleaning equipment used for the rest of the household.

Food hygiene:

Maintaining good hygiene when it comes to food will ensure prevention of food poisoning that might lead to gastroenteritis and diarrhoea.

  • After cooking (especially raw meat, fish or eggs), clean and disinfect any kitchen surfaces that you’ve used. Dirty utensils, cutlery and crockery should be cleaned with detergent and hot water
  • Store raw and cooked food separately
  • Make sure food that you cook is not left undercooked
  • Properly refrigerate food to prevent the growth of bacteria

Take extra care when someone in your family is suffering from diarrhoea.

  • Avoid sharing cutlery, utensils, towels and other personal items such as dish rags, washcloths and scrubs with other members of the household
  • Get ample rest and avoid chores to prevent the contact of others to contaminated household items
  • Clean and disinfect your toilet, including the toilet seat and toilet flush, after each bout of diarrhoea
  • Remember to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water
  • Wait at least 48 hours after symptoms have cleared up before returning to work or school

Myths and Truths

“Should you drink less fluids when you have diarrhoea?”

On the contrary it is absolutely essential to keep your fluid intake high to prevent dehydration from loss of bodily fluids. Drinking boiled or treated water is advised by medical professional. If one feels the urge to vomit, sips of water must be taken at frequent intervals.

“Should you be careful what you eat whilst you are experiencing diarrhoea?”

Experts are divided on what is acceptable and at what times when it comes to food. However, the general consensus is that one should avoid fatty, oily or spicy food. If you’re not feeling up to it, not eating anything will not do you any harm provided your fluid intake remains uncompromised

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