What causes it? Enervation. This is brought on from excessive play, excitement, overindulgence, overeating, eating between meals, excessive starch-eating, becoming too tired from outings, neglect of two-hour nap after the noon meal, or anything that will use up nerve-energy, like long automobile rides or being taken to picture shows, circuses, etc.
What are the first symptoms of indigestion? Nervousness, irritability, bad breath, bloated bowels, coated tongue, cold feet, constipation. Children are always irritable and cry easily when they have indigestion. They should be put to bed, with something warm to the feet. The bowels should be washed out with an enema of warm water, and the children should be kept quiet and without food until they are normal. It may be that within twenty-four hours they will be able to eat. If they awaken smiling and in good humor, and the breath is sweet, they are ready to be fed; but if they awaken crying, with pungent breath, with white lines around the mouth and nose, showing irritation of the stomach, or complaining of discomfort, the fast should be continued for another twenty-four hours, and the bowels should be washed out again before bedtime.
This regimen should be continued until they are normal, if it takes several days. Do not be in a hurry to feed. The trouble comes from overfeeding, and nature must have an opportunity to get rid of the oversupply and the toxemic state which has brought about this condition.
Then, when ready for food, the proper feeding would be a little fruit--orange juice, half water. This may be given every three hours. If the patient passes through the day comfortably, and rests well the first night after taking the fruit juice, the second morning the regular food may be given, giving only about one- third what has ordinarily been given.
In one or two days, if all is going well, the amount may be increased to half as much as the patient is in the habit of eating. After that about the normal amount.
Those who are taking care of children should recognize the symptoms that go ahead of indigestion. They are constipation, distention of the bowels from gas, excessive urination, and a gradual growing state of dissatisfaction. In a nursing child there will be white curds in the stools. The stools will be too firm, and this always means overfeeding; but, instead of waiting until the child is pronouncedly sick, its meals should be cut down one-half, and this amount continued until the bowels are moving regularly and the stools show a normal consistency. As long as there are white curds in the stool, the child is getting more food than it can take care of.
During the hot months of summer, constipation is often followed by diarrhea. This is nature's effort at throwing off the accumulation in the bowels. Some cases will start with vomiting and diarrhea. The treatment should be the same. Put the child to bed with warmth to the feet. If there is distention and sensitiveness or pain in the bowels, hot applications are to be kept on the distended abdomen until all puffiness is gone.
Certainly no food is to be administered until all indications of diarrhea are gone.
Such cases need a few enemas to clear out the debris and relieve the irritation that comes from the acid state which always accompanies this condition.
All the water desired by the child should be given when going without food.
During the hot months, if a child is teething, the foregoing derangements may be followed by what is known as cholera infantum.