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Emergency department study supports giving dehydrated children fluids by mouth

Oral rehydration therapy, or giving fluids by mouth, is equally effective as giving intravenous fluids to young children dehydrated by common stomach and intestinal inflammations, according to a new study by emergency medicine physicians. Because oral therapy can be started more quickly and is less painful for the child than IV treatment, the researchers say it should be the preferred treatment for children with moderate dehydration.

The research, performed in the emergency department of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, supports previous recommendations by expert groups such as the American Association of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization. The study appears in the February issue of Pediatrics.

Gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestine, causes stomach pain, diarrhea, fever and vomiting in young children, especially during the winter months. The loss of fluids may cause a potentially dangerous dehydration, resulting in some 10 percent of hospitalizations in American children under age five.

Busy hospital emergency departments, such as The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, see hundreds of children each year with this condition, frequently caused by infection with rotavirus. "Our study shows that oral rehydration therapy is as effective as intravenous fluid therapy in rehydrating moderately dehydrated children," said Philip Spandorfer, M.D., a pediatric emergency physician at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and primary researcher on the study. "Currently, the majority of pediatric emergency physicians continue to use I.V. therapy for these children, both because they believe parents and referring physicians expect it, and because they believe oral therapy is time-consuming."

There are many benefits to oral rehydration therapy (ORT) that make it more desirable than intravenous fluid therapy (IVF). Patients treated with ORT do not require intravenous access, a potentially painful and
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Contact: Joey Marie McCool
McCool@email.chop.edu
267-426-6070
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
7-Feb-2005


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