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Management of Acute Diarrhea in Emergency Room


Acute diarrhea is the second leading cause of under-five mortality in India. It is defined as the passage of frequent watery stools (>3/24 h). Recent change in consistency of stools is more important than frequency. Acute diarrhea is caused by variety of viral, bacterial and parasitic agents. The common ones are: Rotavirus, E. coli, Shigella, Cholera, and Salmonella. Campylobacter jejuni, Giardia and E. histolytica are also not uncommon. The most important concern in management of acute diarrhea in Emergency room (ER) is fluid and electrolyte imbalances and treatment of underlying infection, wherever applicable. It includes, initial stabilization (identification and treatment of shock), assessment of hydration and rehydration therapy, recognition and treatment of electrolyte imbalance, and use of appropriate antimicrobials wherever indicated. For assessment of hydration clinical signs are generally reliable; however, in severely malnourished children sunken eyes and skin turgor are unreliable. Oral Rehydration Therapy is the cornerstone of management of dehydration. Intravenous fluids are not routinely recommended except in cases of persistent vomiting and/or shock. Majority of cases can be managed in ER and at home. Hospitalization is indicated in infants <3 mo, children with severe dehydration, severe malnutrition, toxic look, persistent vomiting and suspected surgical abdomen. Supplementations with zinc and probiotics have been shown to reduce severity and duration of diarrhea; however evidence does not support the use of antisecretary, antimotility and binding agents. Education of parents about hand hygiene, safe weaning and safe drinking water etc., can help in reducing incidence of this important health problem in the country.

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Correspondence to Sunit C. Singhi.

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Dekate, P., Jayashree, M. & Singhi, S.C. Management of Acute Diarrhea in Emergency Room. Indian J Pediatr 80, 235–246 (2013).

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  • Children
  • Acute diarrhea
  • Oral rehydration therapy
  • Severe dehydration