TAKE CARE: Nearly 100 childcare centres in NSW reported outbreaks of gastro in August.
TAKE CARE: Nearly 100 childcare centres in NSW reported outbreaks of gastro in August. Katy McDonnell

Gastro cases 'above usual levels' in young children

UPDATE, 3pm: CALLS about children with symptoms of gastro have increased in almost 30 per cent in NSW, prompting health authorities to  highlight symptoms and treatment.

The government-owned Healthdirect Helpline has experienced an almost 30% increase in calls about children with symptoms of diarrhoea or vomiting in NSW compared to the same period last year (1 August to 11 September).

Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, stomach pains, fever, headaches and a reduction in appetite.

Gastro should only last for a few days. It doesn't usually require medication.

The most important thing to do is drink fluids - frequent sips are easier for children. It is important to continue drinking regularly even if vomiting is a symptom.

The commonwealth-funded Pregnancy, Birth and Baby service has advice on frequent handwashing for children.

 

Original story: A RISE in viral gastro cases prompted NSW Health to urge parents and carers to keep young children at home if they are sick.

NSW Health's Acting Manager of Enteric and Zoonotic Diseases, Keira Glasgow, said the warning has been prompted by an increase in gastroenteritis outbreaks at childcare centres across the state.

A high number of children aged under five are currently seeking treatment at emergency departments.

"Nearly 100 childcare centres reported outbreaks of gastro in August, double the average for this time of year, and at least 820 children and 165 staff have fallen ill," she said.

"The number of children seeking treatment for the highly-contagious infection at EDs has also risen above usual levels, with 609 children seeking medical attention in the last week."

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches. They can take up to three days to develop and usually last between one or two days, sometimes longer.

Ms Glasgow said gastro was often spread by direct contact with an infected person.

Viral gastroenteritis was usually caused by norovirus or rotavirus.

"It spreads easily between people if they haven't carefully washed their hands after using the toilet or before handling food," she said.

"The best defence is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds before handling and eating food, and always wash your hands after using the toilet, changing nappies or assisting someone who has diarrhoea or vomiting.

"Infants or children in childcare or school who develop vomiting or diarrhoea should stay at home for at least 48 hours after their symptoms have stopped."

The main treatment for viral gastroenteritis is to rest and drink plenty of fluids.

Most people recover without complications, however gastro can be serious for infants, people with suppressed immune systems and the elderly.



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