Gastroenteritis in the summer

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Vomiting and diarrhea, not just winter symptoms

Gastroenteritis is one of the most common diseases in children. It affects a lot in winter, when there is the peak of circulation of one of the main culprits, the rotavirus, and children spend a lot of time in closed and crowded environments (nurseries, kindergartens, schools). Even the summer, however, is not far behind.

To begin with, the viruses circulating in winter, such as rotavirus, do not disappear at all with the summer, so they can still make themselves felt. Among other things, if it is true that there is less indoors, it is also true that many children continue to lead community life in summer camps, in swimming pools, in the baby clubs of holiday villages.

Not only that: in summer there are various conditions that make them more frequent foodborne infections, caused by viruses and bacteria that proliferate easily in a certain type of food. The fact is that nutrition is enriched with raw, semi-raw or perhaps not properly stored foods, which can be vehicles for these pathogenic microorganisms: norovirus, for example, or salmonella or toxin-producing bacteria.

Among other things, children are particularly exposed to these forms of foodborne infection, because in their case a very low load of bacteria, viruses or toxins is enough to cause effects.

Beware of food!

Among the foods most at risk, because they constitute an excellent "ground" for the growth of microbes, there are egg-based sauces and creams (especially if these are not pasteurized and if they are combined with dairy products, as in the cream of tiramisu), yogurt and dairy products, cheeses, raw or undercooked meats, or removed and put back in the refrigerator all the time (as often happens with roast beef).

Then, of course, the conditions for storing and managing food are also introduced: a food at risk to be consumed cold will be safer if consumed immediately after taking it out of the refrigerator. If, on the other hand, it remains on the table (or on a bar counter) for an hour in the heat, the risks increase. As for vegetables, they are typically less at risk, but they can cause problems if for example they are cut with the same knife and cutting board used for raw meat.

When the sea is the problem

We never think about it, but the sea could also be a source of gastrointestinal infections, due to contamination by bacteria such as enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli. In this case, small real epidemics occur, with more people who in a short period of time go to the emergency room with gastrointestinal symptoms. Putting the information together, health authorities date back to stretch of sea at risk, closing the beaches accordingly.

What to do if the child has vomiting or diarrhea in the summer

In reality there are no big differences from what you need to do when it's colder. Read also: Gastroenteritis in children, the answers to the most common doubts of parents

The first thing to do is try to rebalance the condition of the child. If there is diarrhea, it is necessary to focus onoral hydration, that is to try to make him drink: water or, better still, oral rehydration solution (it can be purchased at the pharmacy ready to be diluted in water, and with the correct balance of sugars and mineral salts). Even in case of vomiting, rehydrating solutions should be used, to be offered cold and in small sips or in ice lollies to be sucked slowly.

It seems that some Probiotics (in particular Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG) help to slightly reduce the intensity and duration of the episodes of diarrhea, but in reality there are still no definitive certainties on this front.

To try to combat vomiting, supplements to buy at the pharmacy can be useful, for example based on ginger or citrates and vitamins. In reality there is no definitive scientific proof of their usefulness and effectiveness (meaning that no in-depth studies have been done to prove it), but if the child is particularly uncomfortable, a try can be made.

As always, if the affected child is small (a few months) or if the diarrhea is very intense or associated with persistent vomiting, it is necessary to contact your family pediatrician as soon as possible. In case of particularly acute conditions, perhaps associated with compromising the general condition of the child, it may be necessary to go to the emergency room, for the high risk of dehydration that in young children (under two years of age) it is more frequent: rehydration with a drip may be necessary.

Also contact your doctor if your stool is bloody or a deep green color, as these could be a sign of a salmonella infection.

How to prevent gastroenteritis in the summer

1 Regarding foodborne infections, it is important to pay attention to the correct management and storage of food:


  • separate raw and cooked foods in the refrigerator, always placing them in tightly closed containers;
  • wash cutlery and dishes that come into contact with raw meat well and never use them, before having washed them well, even for the cooked one;
  • cook the meat well, so that even inside it reaches a temperature of at least 70 ° C.
  • Also, when eating away from home, pay close attention to food storage conditions: bingeing on canapes left at room temperature for a long time is not a good idea!


2 Wash your hands often - and well -, and always before eating or preparing food.


3 To the sea, if you want to bathe a small child in the water, it is better not to stay right on the shore, where the greater heat and the lack of recirculation favor the proliferation of any microbes, but move a little further out to sea. Ditto if you want to take water for a small pool to keep on the beach: better to do it offshore and not on the shore.


At the beach, explain to older children about do not drink the water from the showers, which is generally not suitable for drinking. Avoid that the little ones play with it, as they tend to put their hands in their mouths.


4 For the prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis, remember that the only truly effective strategy is vaccination. In Del Paese this vaccination is not mandatory by law, but it is recommended by the Ministry of Health and is offered for free. There are two or three administrations of the vaccine (which is in any case always in oral form), starting from the sixth week of life to be completed by the 24th (two-dose vaccine) or 32nd (three-dose vaccine).


Sources for this article: European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Guidelines for the Management of Acute Gastroenteritis in Children.


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