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Jan 17, 2019

Healthy Living: Stomach Flu Complications

If you’ve been noticing that more and more people seemed to be affected by a flu or stomach bug then your observations are probably right. Apparently viruses thrive better in cooler temperatures. So when winter sets in the north and we have the cooler temperatures in this region, viruses like those that cause the flu or stomach illnesses become a lot more common and there are increased cases. Add to this, the fact that the children have returned from the controlled environment of their homes to school, you’ll understand why there is a predictable spike in flu and stomach viruses around this time of year. In the case of the stomach flu, a little vomiting and diarrhea may seem harmless, but as we find out in tonight’s Healthy Living, it’s not an illness that should be taken lightly and some of our own traditional treatments may actually be making it worse.


Dr. Cecilio Eck, Pediatrician

“On our ward right now it’s completely packed. Yesterday after finishing the rounds and discharging two there were five in A and E waiting for a bed.”


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Doctor Cecilio Eck is the head pediatrician at K.H.M.H. and also has his private clinic in Belize City. The spike in stomach flues is something he has noted to take place around this time and 2019 is shaping up to be no different.


Cecilio Eck

Dr. Cecilio Eck

“If you go in my waiting room this morning in private clinic, you’ll see about half the children coming to see me have vomiting or diarrhea or symptoms affiliated with that. And at the K.H.M.H. where I also work we do see a huge increase and if you speak with the people in the accident and emergency ward they also have a graph that shows the number of cases and it goes up significantly around this Time of year.”


One of the challenges that doctors face is in educating parents on the seriousness of stomach illness in children and some of the traditional remedies that may actually be making it worse.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“The myth in our systems is if the baby gets vomiting or diarrhea to give its of sweet things: sugar and water, syrup, glucose, Bronx sugar and water, hot coke hot sprite, lime juice and black tea. It has a lotto sugar and that sugar then takes the water out of the body into the intestines and it makes the diarrhea much ore profuse. It’s not what to give, but how it’s given. For a tiny child or a one two three year old I actually have in my draw a cup that I show and I tell parents I want to give half of this and I want you to give it every ten minutes and you literally watch the class, ten minutes will pass and you give another half. The kid will be thirsty because they are dehydrated and they will want to drink lot but if you drink a lotta any of those fluids it will come back up. To keep it down, we give tiny amounts and that goes straight through the stomach to the intestines and that what saves a lot of lives.”


Instead of sugary drinks, the recommended fluids should include Pedialyte, fresh coconut water, oral rehydration fluids and breast milk if it is a young baby. The constant small doses are to fight off dehydration which is the main complication of diarrhea and vomiting.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“When we stop taking in fluids and we continue to lose it you get to point where the bodily fluids in your body specifically the blood is decreased and when that happens you can’t get oxygen to the tissues and the first thing that will start you’ll start to breath faster, you’ll get lethargic and you’ll stop interacting with the environment. You’ll pee less, no tears, no saliva. And eventually without oxygen your heart stops beating and you die and it is very rapidly progressing in young kids. A neonate less than 6 weeks is much more severely affected than an infant who is less than one year who is much more affected than two year old. Between two and ten, they’re usually okay. Me and you belly hurt a little diarrhea, the tacos was stale or the coleslaw wasn’t good and we can handle it but the younger they are the more vulnerable they are to the complications and certainly to death.”


While not many children die from dehydration, Doctor Eck only recalls two in the past few years – there has been a lot of hospitalizations but he emphasizes that even one death is one too much. Doctor Eck is based in Belize City but we asked him to offer advice to parents who may find themselves in the situation as the recent couple in Corozal who lost their baby due to dehydration as a result of lack of emergency care. The case is still being investigated by the Ministry of Health but here is what the veteran pediatrician had to say.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“What I always say we only see half the story when its portrayed by the media and I would have liked to be there when it is presented because all of these cases are separated and we go through a fine tooth comb and find out what the problems are how to prevent in the future. So I would tell parents if you’re a situation like that. The kid is looking sick there is a decrease in attention. Be more vocal. Call the nurse and ask them to please come and assess again please let me see the doctor. Go and personally look for the doctor or call a friend but don’t just sit and wait and expect that the child will get well. On our part as the medical practitioners in Belize, I tell parents the only thing that would come above a sick kid in and emergency room would be severe emergencies, the vehicle accidents or heart attack or a gunshot wound but under that a sick kid with vomiting or diarrhea or fever comes right underneath that. They need to be assessed as immediately as possible. Secondly, I know the people from Baylor College are helping us with teaching our frontline staff how to triage more efficiently and hopefully that will decrease the mortality.”


Doctor Eck advises parents to pay attention to the symptoms. A mild stomach flu may not require medication but can be treated with continuous hydration. If symptoms persist though take your child to the nearest hospital or clinic. To prevent the illnesses, reinforce proper hygienic practices with your children especially hand-washing. And if your child is sick, don’t send them to school so you can minimize the spread of the illness.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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