“Dear People of the world,
It’s that time of the year when diarrhoea begins to dance shaku-shaku with the lives of our children and we all have to be careful with this.
It is really sad but it has become a yearly affair which often ends in sorrow and tears.
Diarrhoea is an abnormal increase in the frequency and liquidity of the stools. Each year, over one billion episodes of acute diarrhoea occur among children under the age of five.
Rotavirus is the leading cause of acute diarrhoea and causes about 40% of hospitalizations for diarrhoea in children under five years of age.
In case you do not know, diarrhoea is the second leading killer of children under the age of five, accounting for approximately 15% of under-five child deaths worldwide, or almost two million deaths annually.
This is absolutely more than the combined deaths yearly from AIDS, malaria, and measles.
The incidence of diarrheal diseases varies greatly with the seasons and the age of the child. The youngest children are the most vulnerable and the incidence is highest in the first two years of life and declines as the child grows older.
Risk factors for diarrhoea include poor water supply, poor sewage disposal, and poor hygiene.
Others are non-practice of exclusive breastfeeding and poor immunization status.
A child having diarrhoea has increased loss of water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, and potassium) in the liquid stool and dehydration can occur.
The degree of dehydration is graded according to signs and symptoms that reflect the amount of fluid loss.
Early features are difficult to detect but they include dryness of the mouth and thirst. Features of severe dehydration include dry mouth and tongue, the absence of tears when crying, sunken eyes, sunken soft spot on top of the skull (anterior fontanelle) and irritability.
Replacing the lost fluid is essential to prevent dehydration and also an important step in treating diarrhoea.
In the home, this can be achieved using oral rehydration solutions which are readily available in most pharmacy stores. They often come packaged with zinc tablet.
Zinc supplementation is critical for treating diarrheal episodes in children because it can reduce the duration and severity of diarrheal episodes.
Fluids in the house that can be used for rehydration include salt/sugar solution, green coconut water and freshly squeezed orange juice diluted with clean water.
Commonly, people add salt to either Sprite or 7UP drinks and even give the child partially raw Pap (Akamu).
These are often not helpful and could actually cause more harm than good.
Although the means to prevent diarrhoea through the provision of wholesome water supply, sanitation and hygiene have been well documented, but each year, it still occurs because we just don’t care.
Hand washing is also one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of viruses and bacteria that can cause diarrhoea.
But then how well and regularly do we really wash our hands?
A vaccine against Rotavirus is currently part of the requisite immunization for infants in Nigeria, but sadly, it is not universally available in public health facilities yet.
Exclusive breastfeeding is also effective in reducing the risk of diarrhoea, but sadly too, the exclusive breastfeeding rate in Nigeria is on the decline.
Abeg, let’s do the right thing and stop this yearly shaku-shaku dance of death produced by diarrhoea. In case you don’t know, diarrhoea is public enemy number one.”