Algoma Public Health
- Diarrhea and Vomiting (Gastroenteritis)
Diarrhea and Vomiting (Gastroenteritis)
What is it?
Gasteroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines which usually causes diarrhea and/or vomiting and is often referred to as the “stomach flu”. Illness may be a sign of an infection caused by a virus, bacteria or parasite. Viral gastroenteritis is a common cause of diarrhea in child care settings. Diarrhea is defined as loose or watery bowel movements that take the shape of its container and is unusual for that individual. Diarrhea can drain the body of fluids, salts and nutrients which can lead to dehydration. When monitoring illness in a child care centre, one of the following can be considered a case (staff or child) of gastroenteritis:
- Two or more episodes of diarrhea or vomit within a 24 hour period, OR
- One episode of diarrhea and one episode of vomiting within a 24 hour period, OR
- Laboratory confirmation of known bacteria, virus, or parasite
What other symptoms may a child with gastroenteritis also have?
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pains
- Blood and/or mucus in stool
How is it spread?
Gastroenteritis spreads from person to person through the “fecal-oral” route. Germs are passed in bowel movements of an infected person and can spread when a child or adult touches a contaminated surface, then touches his or her mouth and ingests the germs. Toys and equipment can become contaminated surfaces, and handscan spread germs directly if they are not washed properly after using the toilet, changing a diaper, or before preparing food. Contaminated food or water and some pets can also spread the germs responsible for causing gastroenteritis.
Why does gastroenteritis spread easily in a child care centre?
- Children have an increased hand-to-mouth activity
- Children lack knowledge of basic hygiene
- A child’s immune system is not fully developed
- There is repeat close personal contact with other children and staff
How long is it contagious?
This can vary depending on the cause of the illness but usually a child is contagious a few days before the onset of diarrhea/vomit and for a few days after symptoms have disappeared.
What can you do?
- Hand washing by staff and children after going to the toilet, after every diaper change, and before eating or preparing food
- Regularly clean and disinfect shared objects, toys, surfaces, and bathrooms
- Disinfect change tables after every diaper change and properly dispose of diapers
- Children with diarrhea should continue to drink enough water or other fluids to avoid dehydration
- Depending on the cause of illness, a child may have to stay home from the child care centre until test results (3 samples) from bowel movements are normal or until the doctor has determined that the infecting germ is no longer present
- Contact your doctor if your child develops any of the following: fever, increased thirst, absence of tears, decreased urination, blood in bowel movements , listlessness or decreased activity, sunken eyes, or sunken soft spot (fontanel) on infant’s head
Whom should I talk to if I have any questions?
Consult with your child’s doctor or call the Algoma Public Health Parent Child Info Line at 705-541-7101 (Toll Free 1-888-537-5741) if you have any questions about what to feed a child with diarrhea. Contact Algoma Public Health to speak with a Public Health Inspector at 705-759-5286 if you have an increased number of children/staff experiencing gastroenteritis.
Date of Creation: June 1, 2015
Last Modified: March 3, 2015