Tackling Travelers' Diarrhea
Summer has arrived, and so has the annual spike in the dreaded lādùzi (拉肚子) - gastroenteritis, or "travelers' diarrhea," as it is often called. This very common problem of diarrhea is often accompanied by vomiting, fever, headaches and other symptoms. It's much more frequent during the summer months because harmful bacteria enjoy the warm sunshine as much as we do. In the summer, it's very common to get infections from street vendor food or from picnic foods that have been lying out all day in the sun. You can also get gastroenteritis from viruses and parasites.
Fortunately, this infection is usually mild and lasts from a few hours to a couple days at most. The most serious complication is dehydration.
Before any consideration of antibiotics, which are often not needed, the number one goal for parents is to keep their children hydrated. Water by itself is not enough; our bodies need salt and sugar as well. That's why we doctors specifically recommend using Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) packets. When mixed with water, this World Health Organization-designed powder provides enough nutrients to get almost anyone through those tough couple days of diarrhea and not eating. These ORS packets are available in all expat clinics and local Chinese pharmacies. Consumer beverages such as soft drinks and sports drinks aren't recommended as they usually have too much sugar and not enough salt and minerals. Most clear broths and soups are also tricky as they usually have too much salt.
There are a few other non-prescription measures that may help clear up mild diarrhea and are safe for most children. Smecta is an activated charcoal powder which can help firm up stool and eliminate toxins quicker. Medilac is a powder or pill containing healthy bacteria which can replace the lost good bacteria in your gut and will also quicken your recovery in a healthy way. Another common medicine called loperamide (aka "Imodium" or "Lomotil") can quickly slow down diarrhea
but is not recommended for infants and toddlers.
These above at-home treatments work well for most kids, but if your child has the following symptoms of dehydration - not eating at all, appears lethargic, is no longer wetting diapers - then it's time to see your doctor quickly for an evaluation.
And don't forget that while treatments are widely available, it's even more important not to get infected in the first place. Review proper purchasing, cooking and handling practices with your ayi. You can find more information online from the WHO's "Five Keys to Safer Food" website: www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/consumer/5keys