FEEDING SICK PEOPLE| Fight infections | Malnutrition | Diarrhoea
Diarrhoea: Sick people should eat well even if they are not active. They need nutrients to keep alive, fight infections and replace lost nutrients.
Why sick people need good meals and plenty to drink:
Eating well helps to fight infections. Why sick people need good meals and plenty to drink because:
Infection often reduces appetite. It also increases the need for some nutrients if: nutrients are poorly absorbed by the gut; & the body uses nutrients faster than usual (e.g. to repair the immune system).
Infections can cause malnutrition. Malnutrition makes infections worse. If sick people do not eat enough, they use their own body fat and muscles for energy and nutrients. They lose weight and become undernourished, & causing their immune systems may become less effective.
They need plenty of clean, safe drinks. Sick people often lose or use more water than usual (e.g. during diarrhoea or fever.
Helping sick children & adults to eat well:
If people are ill for more than a few days, they need a variety of foods to help their immune systems recover and to prevent weight loss so it is advisable to families of patients to:
- Offer small amounts of food frequently, especially if the person is not hungry. Often a sick person prefers soft foods (e.g. gruel, mashed bananas or soup) or sweet foods. For a few days it is ADVISEABLE to provided he or she eats often it does not matter what the person eats.
- Prepare food and drinks in a clean, safe way in order to prevent foodborne infections.
- Adding a little fat-rich food or sugar is an easy way to increase energy without making the meal too big and bulky; including a variety of fruits and vegetables provides micronutrients.
- If a young, breastfeeding child is sick, the mother should breastfeed more often. Breastmilk may be the only food and drink the child wants. Advise the mother to express her milk and feed it from a small cup or spoon if a child is too ill to suckle.
- Vitamin A supplements often benefit in areas where vitamin A deficiency is a problem, children with measles, diarrhoea, respiratory infections or malnutrition.
Feeding people with diarrhoea:
- People with diarrhoea need extra liquids to drink. Children and adults with diarrhoea and vomiting lose much water and so must drink frequently to prevent dehydration. Suitable drinks are oral rehydration solution(ORS) made from packets of oral rehydration salts (from the clinic or pharmacy) or ordinary home-made fluids containing normal amounts of salt, such as soups or rice water.
- People with diarrhoea must also eat because food helps the gut to recover and absorb water.
- Breastfeeding children who have diarrhoea should breastfeed frequently.
HOW TO HELP SICK PEOPLE EAT MORE:
Encourage the person to eat more at each meal. Feed when the person has a low temperature, has been washed and has the mouth clean and the nose unblocked.
Feed the person sitting up (especially if vomiting is likely); feed a child sitting on someone’s lap.
Never force sick children to eat, as they may DO vomiting or may choke. Keep water and food nearby if a person has to stay in bed.
Give easy-to-eat foods that the person likes, but include energy-rich and nutrient-rich foods in the meals. For example, give meat, offal, poultry, fish, eggs, and milk foods when possible (adding dry milk powder to porridges and other foods provides extra milk); add extra fat or fatty foods and/or sweet foods, such as sugar or honey.
Feeding people who are Recovering:
- Give extra food during recovery. During recovery from disease most people are hungrier than usual. They can
eat more food and quickly regain their ideal weight.
- Children can grow faster than normal (catch-up growth).
- Sick people may have used up their stores of iron, vitamin A, and other micronutrients. They need a variety of nutrient-rich foods to fill up these stores again. People can eat more during recovery if they eat extra food at each meal and/or more meals and snacks each day.
- Breastfeeding children who are recovering from illness should breastfeed more often.
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