What is kwashiorkor?

Kwashiokor is a disease that is caused by the lack or complete lack of protein in children’s food. The clinical condition is a type of protein malnutrition that is widespread in developing countries. Infants and children in tropical and subtropical climates in Africa, Asia, and South America are at greatest risk of developing this disease because of the great poverty in the countries of these regions.

But bearing in mind the difficult financial situation of a significant part of the population of Bulgaria – over 1 million people live below the threshold of absolute poverty, that is, they have less than 55 BGN per month, and Bulgarian children are also at risk to some extent from protein deficiency.

Each of our cells is made up of proteins. They are an indispensable element of every meal and ensure the regeneration and production of new cells. In our body, when it is in a good state of health, these processes are carried out constantly. Protein is also extremely important for growth during pregnancy and childhood.

Foods that contain protein are:

  • Meat, milk, cheese;
  • Fish, eggs, soy;
  • Beans, nuts, seeds;
  • Some types of grains.

The term ‘kwashikor’ is derived from a word used in Ghana which literally means weaned baby disease. The disease usually occurs when the baby is weaned from the mother’s protein-rich diet and gradually transitions to a protein-poor, mostly carbohydrate-rich diet. In most developing countries, protein-rich foods are unavailable to a large portion of the population.

What are the symptoms?

Children get edema – retention of more than usual amount of water in the body tissues and look swollen and puffy. They are weak and irritable, and in many cases the skin begins to peel and their hair loses its color and becomes thinner. If left untreated, the disease can cause swelling of the liver, loss of fluids from the blood, although the child may have edema, growth is delayed. The child is also at risk of severe infections due to his weakened immune system. This can lead to persistent drowsiness, jaundice and a drop in body temperature.

Treatment of kwashiorkor

Treatment can also be done at home. But it is very important to start treatment immediately, because in certain cases it can be dangerous for the child’s life. Initially, it begins with the intake of more warm fluids to replace those that the body has lost. Small amounts of milk, vitamins and minerals can be given in the form of nutritional supplements. Zinc will help stop skin peeling. After the swelling subsides, the child should switch to a high-calorie diet, which mainly includes foods rich in proteins. About 85% of children who are treated for this disease survive. Most children who are treated correctly and promptly make a full recovery. However, if the disease occurs before the child reaches the age of 2, their growth is usually delayed.

How to prevent the disease?

Kwashiokor is a clinical condition that is a protein deficiency in the diet and therefore it can be easily prevented if the child eats a balanced diet and his parents make sure he eats foods that are rich of proteins.

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