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September 2022

Soc Sci Med. 1983 ; 17(17): 1257-69.

Beliefs regarding the etiology and treatment of infantile diarrhea in Lima, Peru.

Escobar GJ, Salazar E, Chuy M.

Three groups of women in Lima, Peru, were interviewed regarding their beliefs about the etiology and treatment of infantile diarrhea. The first group consisted of 91 mothers of children under the age of 2. These were interviewed at two locations: the pediatric emergency service of a teaching hospital serving northern Lima and a health center located in one of the rapidly growing shantytowns surrounding Lima. The second group consisted of 25 women interviewed in their homes in several shantytowns. Answers given by mothers in both groups were similar. All women were of low socioeconomic status. The third group consisted of 23 adolescent girls and young women interviewed briefly at two schools in Lima. Results of the interviews confirm that diarrhea is not seen as an infectious disease. Instead, it is placed within the framework of the hot--cold dichotomy prevalent in Latin America; diarrhea is believed to be caused by invasion of the body by cold or by ingestion of foods designated as being 'cold'. Suspension of milk feeding is also thought to be an essential part of treatment, a finding of importance in view of the decline in breastfeeding.

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