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Prevention and early detection key to mitigate diarrhoea risks

With children under five most at risk of complications resulting from diarrhoea during the warmer months, City Health reminds the public of the importance of keeping children safe.

The increase in diarrhoea cases, referred to as 'Surge Season' is prevalent between November and April, courtesy of higher temperatures which promote the spread of germs.

Children under the age of five remain vulnerable to this preventable disease, particularly in developing countries.

It is for this reason that the City and its partners have, in the last decade, ramped up education and awareness initiatives, but also introduced a number of measures at clinics and hospitals to fast-track medical attention for children who show symptoms of dehydration associated with diarrhoea.

The Surge Season appears to be off on a slow start and to date, reported figures show a 25% decline in the number of reported cases for the 2019/20 season as compared to the 2018/19, but already two fatalities have been reported. Hospital admissions for severe dehydration are down by approximately 30%.

'We can only speculate about the drop in the caseload, but it is nonetheless encouraging, particularly the drop in hospital admissions, but also the number of cases with dehydration. To date, temperatures have been reasonably mild, but this is likely to change in the coming months, so we all need to be on alert for symptoms of diarrhoea in young children, but also ensure that our personal hygiene habits are geared towards preventing the spread of germs and children contracting diarrhoea in the first place. Prevention is always better than cure,' said the City's Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Zahid Badroodien.

Diarrhoea is a viral infection with the following symptoms:


Loose, watery stools (runny stomach)

Lethargy (low energy)

Dehydration passing little urine, dry mouth, few tears when crying, sunken eyes and weakness

Severe dehydration drowsiness, pale/mottled skin, cold hands or feet, dry nappies, fast and shallow breathing

Caregivers are advised to keep their children hydrated by giving them rehydration solution, breast milk, thin soup or very thin porridge and to feed it to them a little bit at a time.

'However, if you're unsure, play it safe and get the child to the nearest clinic as soon as possible where a proper assessment can be made and appropriate action taken. Another tip is to ensure good hygiene at all times. Research has shown that hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent diarrhoea from spreading, so please wash utensils and hands before eating, and in the case of young children specifically, wash their bottles, bowls, spoons and teats before feeding them,' added Councillor Badroodien.

Source: City Of Cape Town

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