Though the month of November marks the start of the countdown to the Christmas holiday season, it also marks the start of what is called “Paediatric Surge Season”.
Every year between November and May, healthcare facilities across the province sees an uptick in diarrhoeal and pneumonia cases in children under the age of 5.
With the surge season in full swing, the Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness urged parents and caregivers to take the necessary precautions to protect all children against preventable and treatable diarrhoeal disease over the next months.
“Our healthcare facilities are able to diagnose and treat diarrhoea and a host of other ailments affecting children. Our staff are also able to provide advice and guidance on nutrition, the lack of which plays a role in diarrhoea.”
During surge season last year, between November 2022 and May 2023, facilities in the Northern and Tygerberg districts treated a total of 1,837 children for diarrhoea. Of these cases, at least 113 children were also treated for dehydration, with 21 children being severely dehydrated.
In the Tygerberg health sub-district, a total of 4,085 children were treated for diarrhoea, of which 647 children were dehydrated and 32 severely dehydrated.
“Diarrhoea can lead to dehydration and this can cause serious health problems. This is why knowing the signs that a child needs help and what to do can save their life.”
Signs that your child needs help
If your child gets diarrhoea, check them for these signs of dehydration:
- Dry or sticky mouth;
- Does not want to accept milk feeds (breastmilk or infant formula) or eat;
- Few or no tears when crying;
- Lack of urine, or only a very small amount of dark yellow urine;
- Dry, cool skin;
- Tiredness and irritability;
- Headache and stomach ache; and
The provincial health department has advised parents to seek help immediately if their child presents any of these symptoms.
“Do not wait in line, go directly to the healthcare worker or reception desk and let them know your child has diarrhoea and possible dehydration.”
There are three clinical types of diarrhoea:
- acute watery diarrhoea – lasts several hours or days;
- acute bloody diarrhoea – also called dysentery; and
- persistent diarrhoea – lasts 14 days or longer.
According to the World Health Organisation, diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old. The disease was responsible for the deaths of 370,000 children in 2019.
Do not hesitate to seek help urgently if your child displays these warning signs. Visit your nearest healthcare facility or call an ambulance on 10177 immediately.