Importance of Distinguishing Cause of Pediatric Gastroenteritis
In most cases, pediatric acute gastrointestinal illness is a short, self-limiting illness that usually does not require treatment. However, pediatric patients are a sensitive group that can experience complications from a gastrointestinal illness, particularly if the illness is caused by C. difficile or a parasite. And pediatric patients can’t always verbalize their symptoms, making the diagnosis even more of a guessing game.
In an interview, Dr. Samuel Dominguez, a pediatric infectious disease physician, explained the role and importance of distinguishing pathogens in cases of pediatric gastroenteritis. “Some providers use GI testing to ‘rule out’ a serious GI infection. For example, a child with a history of inflammatory bowel disease might present with new-onset bloody diarrhea and testing for GI pathogens might help determine if this is due to the acquisition of a new infection versus a flare of their underlying condition. Diagnosing a GI pathogen can also be extremely helpful for epidemiologic purposes to identify the cause of an outbreak, find an etiology in a complicated patient that might prevent further testing or, less commonly, to find an etiology to reassure patients that this should be a self-limited disease.”4