What is the management of a child with acute diarrhoea?

  1. The most important aspect of management is to start oral rehydration therapy as early as possible to prevent dehydration from occurring. Oral rehydration solution should be used. With frequent, small drinks most children with mild diarrhoea can be adequately managed without developing dehydration.
  2. Breastfeeding, formula or solid feeds should be continued unless the child has severe vomiting.
  3. The clinical condition of the child must be continually assessed for signs of complications, especially dehydration.
  4. Treat the complications if they occur.

Treatment must be started early and every effort must be made to prevent dehydration by replacing the fluid losses. It is important to teach mothers that acute diarrhoea is treated with oral rehydration solution and not with medicines. Thirst is often a good guide to the need for oral rehydration solution. The management of most children with acute diarrhoea is both simple and cheap. Intravenous fluid (‘a drip’) is usually not necessary. There is no need for routine stool cultures in acute diarrhoea.

The early use of oral rehydration solution can usually prevent dehydration.

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