We are in the middle of summer now and with this comes the germs (viruses, bacteria and parasites) that can cause diarrhea and vomiting. The youngest children, less than 2 years, are most vulnerable to diarrheal diseases. Fortunately if we take proper precautions we can prevent these diseases. So today we will talk about the measures for prevention of diarrheal diseases.
Prevention in infant
Breast feeding is natural protection for most of the diseases especially diarrhea. World Health Organization recommends that babies should be exclusive breast fed until 6 months of age. Those who are not breast fed should be fed with breast milk substitute that is infant formula milk. It is important that certain precautions should be taken in preparing the feeds when formula milk is used.
The bottles and nipples should be sterilized in a commercial sterilizer (follow the manufacturer’s instruction) or boiled in a pan. The water that is used for preparing the feeds should be boiled even if you are using bottled water. After boiling the water it should be cooled for less than 30 minutes (to not less than 70c) and then should be mixed with measured amount of powder. The reason is that the milk powder may not be sterile, however when it is mixed in hot water the germs in it will be killed. The prepared feed should be cooled down quickly in running cold water or in a pan of cold water. If not consumed within 2 hours it should be thrown away.
The prepared formula feeds can be refrigerated for 24 hours. After taking out from refrigerator it can be warmed in a bowl of hot water and then used.
Babies can get germs from the hands of those who touch them; so those who handle them should wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before touching them.
Prevention in older children
Using Safe water is most important to prevent diarrheal diseases. Bottled water is usually safe but be sure to check the seal that it is not tampered with. If one is not sure about the water supply then it should be boiled. If boiling is not possible then micropore filtering or disinfecting agents like iodine tablets should be used especially while one is travelling outside the country. Bottled or properly packed beverages are usually safe; again the seals should be checked.
When one is eating in restaurants and is not sure whether proper food hygiene precautions are taken in that place, then be sure that the food you eat is well cooked and steaming hot. The food items that are not cooked like salads should be avoided.
One can get diarrhea from home made food also if one does not take certain precautions.
While buying food from stores check the “use before date”. The frozen food should be brought home within one hour of buying and should be placed in the refrigerator immediately. Food once thawed should not be frozen again. Raw food and ready to eat items should be kept separately.
Food especially poultry, meat, and fish should be cooked thoroughly. No part of it should remain pink. Uncooked eggs should not be eaten unless they are pasteurized.
Cooked food if not consumed immediately should be cooled quickly(within 1 to 2 hours) and kept in the refrigerator. Do not keep hot food in the refrigerator, as with this the temperature in the refrigerator will rise and thus bacteria will grow in the other food items.
Cooked food can be kept in refrigerator for 2 days. In the freezer as long as it remains frozen, but the texture and taste will change with prolong storing. Food once taken out of the refrigerator and warmed or kept out for a length of time should not be kept back in the refrigerator.
In the kitchen the sinks, work tops and utensils should be cleaned thoroughly. Dish clothes should be washed in hot water frequently or disposables ones should be used.
Hands should be washed after touching uncooked food. The knife and chopping board which is used for cutting uncooked food should be thoroughly washed.
It is better to use separate knife and chopping board for cutting salads and fruits.
If you are taking the cooked food to be eaten outside home then it should be transferred in a cool bag with ice trays.
Lastly hand washing is must before eating.
Taking above measures will keep the germs away from you and your loved ones to a great extent and so you can enjoy your well earned summer holidays.