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Paediatr Drugs. 2003;5(3):151-65.

Treatment of infectious diarrhea in children.

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Clinical Sciences Division, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Centre for Health and Population Research, GPO Box 128, Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh.


Diarrheal diseases remain an important cause of childhood morbidity and death in developing countries, although diarrheal deaths have significantly declined in recent years, mostly due to successes in the implementation of oral rehydration therapy (ORT), which is the principal treatment modality. Diarrhea may occur for varied reasons; however, most episodes of diarrhea in developing countries are infectious in origin. Three clinical forms of diarrhea (acute watery diarrhea, invasive diarrhea, and persistent diarrhea) have been identified to formulate a management plan. Acute diarrhea may be watery (where features of dehydration are prominent) or dysenteric (where stools contain blood and mucus). Rehydration therapy is the key to management of acute watery diarrhea, whereas antimicrobial agents play a vital role in the management of acute invasive diarrhea, particularly shigellosis and amebiasis. In persistent diarrhea, nutritional therapy, including dietary manipulations, is a very important aspect in its management, in addition to rehydration therapy. Rehydration may be carried out either by the oral or intravenous route, depending upon the degree of dehydration. Oral rehydration salts (ORS) solution (World Health Organization formula) is recommended for ORT. Intravenous fluid is recommended for initial management of severe dehydration due to diarrhea, followed by ORT with ORS solution for correction of ongoing fluid losses. Antimicrobial therapy is beneficial for cholera and shigellosis. Antiparasitic agents are indicated only if amebiasis and giardiasis are present. Appropriate feeding during diarrhea is recommended for nutritional recovery and to prevent bodyweight loss. Antidiarrheal agents do not provide additional benefit in the management of infectious diarrhea. Although some probiotics have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of acute diarrhea due to rotavirus, their use in the treatment of diarrhea is yet to be recommended, even in developed countries. The children of developing countries might benefit from zinc supplementation during the diarrheal illness, but its mode of delivery and cost effectiveness are yet to be decided.

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