The Symptoms of Infantile Dyspepsia

Vomiting; constipation; diarrhea; green or clay-colored stools, bowel discharges sour or fetid; appearance of curds in the bowel discharges; loss of flesh; irritability; moaning cry; capricious appetite; feverishness; symptoms of worms.

Disorders of digestion constitute a very large share of the causes of illness in children. A careful study of the causes of death among children shows that derangement of digestion of various kinds, either directly or indirectly, are the cause of by far the greater share of deaths occurring in the first years of life. Vomiting is the most common symptom of indigestion. When the matters vomited are very sour, the child is suffering with acidity of the stomach, which may be the result of overeating or of the use of sugar or starchy food. Green, offensive bowel discharges indicate decomposition of the contents of the intestines in consequence of imperfect digestion. The green discharges are generally preceded by discharges in which lumps of curd are seen, indicting that digestion is imperfectly performed. After awhile, an irritation of the intestinal canal arises from the contact of hard, undigested curds which should have been digested in the stomach, and the discharges become more offensive in character, and are likely to contain considerable mucus from catarrh of the bowels. Clay-colored stools indicate an inactive condition of the liver, or an obstruction of the bile ducts, probably in consequence of the extension of the intestinal catarrh into the bile ducts. When the stools continue greenish, sour or fetid, sometimes the child shows marked symptoms of wasting, becoming thin and wrinkled,-the countenance wearing an old look,-weak, peevish and restless. In many cases, convulsions come on in consequence of the weakened state of the child, in one of which the child dies. In other cases, the child dies from exhaustion. When vomiting is the principal symptom, the difficulty seems to increase until the little sufferer is unable to retain anything upon the stomach.

The Causes of Infantile Dyspepsia

The principal causes of derangement of the digestion in children are improper food, too frequent feeding, overfeeding, the use of nursing-bottles which have not been properly cleansed. For directions with reference to feeding, see section on "Feeding and Care of Infants." Mental excitement, as care, anxiety, and particularly anger on the part of the mother, is a frequent cause of indigestion in nursing infants. Menstruation, pregnancy, sexual excesses, also exert a pernicious influence upon the infant through the milk. The ill health of the mother is a frequent cause of laying the foundation, during the nursing period, of constitutional weakness in the child, as well as occasioning immediate disorders of nutrition. The practice that many mothers indulge in, of feeding the child every time it cries, is a most pernicious one, but we will not dwell upon this point, as it has been fully considered elsewhere. Nursing-bottles, especially those with long tubes, are responsible annually for a large number of deaths among children. It is so difficult to keep bottles perfectly clean, as milk rapidly undergoes decomposition when warm, that probably the nursing-bottle is not free from danger in one case out of twenty in which it is used. A slight degree of sourness in a bottle or tube will communicate fermentation to the fresh milk taken by the child, so that the food will very soon sour and decompose in the stomach, producing all the results of indigestion or dyspepsia. The use of milk from unhealthy cows, from farrow cows, or that which has been allowed to slightly "change" before using, is very sure to disturb the sensitive digestive organs of the infant.