Oral Rehydration Therapy
Wake Med University Hospital ED, Raleigh, North Carolina. Submitted by Courtney Mann, MD.
Oral rehydration therapy (ORT) is a specific procedure intended to rehydrate the moderately dehydrated infant or toddler. Its advantages over parenteral therapy include fewer complications, lower cost, lower hospitalization rate, and minimizing the risk of iatrogenic hypernatremia or hyponatremia. Parents and staff embarking on ORT must be highly motivated and committed to performing the procedure properly.
Defining Characteristics of Degrees of Dehydration
Min. or None
Mouth and Tongue
Unable to drink
Goes back immediately
The appropriate patients for ORT are those with mild to moderate dehydration (classically defined as 3-9%).
- Children between 3 months and 5 years of age with acute diarrheal illness with or without vomiting
- Children with mild to moderate dehydration
- Patient is able to tolerate oral intake
- Normal bedside glucose
- Parental ability and willingness to comply with procedure.
- Altered mental status
- Severe dehydration
- Parental limitations
- Excessive vomiting
- Abdominal distention or absent bowel sounds
- Abnormal bedside glucose
- (Adjusted) Age 3 months or less
- Unreliable home situation
- Uncontrolled diarrhea
- Complicated medical history (prematurity, cardiac anomalies, AIDS, etc.)
- Assess for indications and contraindications
- Bedside glucose
- Consider Ondansetron (Zofran) 0.2 mg/kg po
- For mild dehydration, have parent administer 50-60 cc/kg of Rehydralyte over a four hour time period.
- For moderate dehydration, parent will administer 80-100 cc/kg over four hours. May administer with a spoon or syringe every minute or two. If the rehydration is going well, may consider discharge after 2 hours and the parent will continue the remainder at home.
- Add additional 10 cc/kg to the total for every diarrheal stool in the Emergency Department.
- Some vomiting is not a contraindication and not an indication of failure of ORT
- If successfully rehydrated, discharge patient home with rapid reinstitution of age appropriate normal diet within 4 to 6 hours.
- If failed procedure, consider:Admission
- A single 30 cc/kg normal saline bolus, labs (Chem 7) and reattempt ORT
- Nasogastric tube administration of Rehydralyte
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Practice parameter: The management of acute gastroenteritis in young children. Pediatrics, 1996; 97: 424-436.
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Gavin N, Merrick N, et.al. Efficacy of glucose-based oral rehydration therapy. Pediatrics, 1996; 98: 45-51.
- Gerardi MJ. Managing fluid and electrolyte therapy without a calculator-handout from presentation at American College of Emergency Physicians, 1998; Scientific assembly October 11-14, 1998, San Diego CA.
- Meyers A. Fluid and electrolyte therapy for children. Curr Opin Ped, 1994; 6: 303-309.
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Lance Brown, 1999 Revised Courtney Mann, 2004