BACKGROUND: Acute onset vomiting and diarrhoea is one of the most common illnesses of infancy, and is second only to respiratory illnesses as a cause of childhood deaths worldwide. Existing guidelines for management of diarrhoea are often ignored in public and private practice, possibly because of a perception that the guidelines are too simple, or because of expectations of the need to give 'real' drug therapy to stop diarrhoea.
OBJECTIVES: This guideline provides a problem-based approach to the basics of present-day management of acute gastroenteritis, and discusses the evidence for the recommendations.
RECOMMENDATIONS Each episode of diarrhoea must be seen as an opportunity for caregiver education in the prevention of the illness, in the 'what' and 'how' of oral rehydration and re-feeding, and in the recognition of when to seek help. The vast majority of patients recover rapidly, but serious complications do occur and must be recognised and managed correctly.
VALIDATION: The guidelines are endorsed by the Paediatric Management Group (PMG) in South Africa.
CONCLUSION: The aim of management is to help the child to maintain or regain hydration, and to recover from diarrhoea, with careful attention to adequate oral rehydration and judicious re-feeding.