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Guideline Summary
Guideline Title
Diarrhoea and vomiting in children. Diarrhoea and vomiting caused by gastroenteritis: diagnosis, assessment and management in children younger than 5 years.
Bibliographic Source(s)
National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health. Diarrhoea and vomiting in children. Diarrhoea and vomiting caused by gastroenteritis: diagnosis, assessment and management in children younger than 5 years. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE); 2009 Apr. 33 p. (NICE clinical guideline; no. 84). 
Guideline Status

This is the current release of the guideline.

Scope

Disease/Condition(s)

Diarrhoea and vomiting caused by gastroenteritis

Guideline Category
Counseling
Diagnosis
Management
Prevention
Risk Assessment
Treatment
Clinical Specialty
Critical Care
Emergency Medicine
Family Practice
Gastroenterology
Infectious Diseases
Internal Medicine
Nutrition
Pediatrics
Intended Users
Advanced Practice Nurses
Dietitians
Health Care Providers
Nurses
Physician Assistants
Physicians
Guideline Objective(s)

To provide guidance on the diagnosis, assessment and management of children younger than 5 years with acute diarrhoea and vomiting caused by gastroenteritis in England and Wales

Target Population

Infants and young children from birth up to their fifth birthday presenting to healthcare professionals with acute diarrhoea (lasting 14 days or fewer) due to gastroenteritis, on its own or with vomiting

Note: The following populations are excluded from this guideline: children who have passed their fifth birthday; infants and young children with chronic diarrhoea and vomiting (lasting more than 14 days); infants and young children with disorders other than gastroenteritis that cause diarrhoea or vomiting (for example, specific food intolerances or inflammatory bowel disease); children with medical disorders that significantly alter the approach to their fluid management, such as those with cardiac or renal failure; neonates who are admitted to the neonatal unit.

Interventions and Practices Considered

Diagnosis/Evaluation/Risk Assessment

  1. Assessment of symptoms
  2. Stool microbiological investigations
  3. Blood cultures if giving antibiotic therapy
  4. Specialist advice in children with Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection
  5. Assessment of dehydration and shock
  6. Clinical assessment
    • Assessment of signs and symptoms
    • Measurement of plasma sodium, potassium, urea, creatinine, and glucose
    • Measurement of venous blood acid-base status and chloride concentration

Treatment/Management/Prevention/Counseling

  1. Fluid management
    • Primary prevention of dehydration
    • Treating dehydration using oral rehydration salt solution
    • Intravenous fluid therapy
  2. Fluid management after dehydration
  3. Nutritional management
  4. Antibiotic therapy (not recommended routinely)
  5. Antidiarrheal medications (not recommended)
  6. Escalation of care with emergency transfer to secondary care if needed
  7. Providing information and advice for parents and carers
  8. Preventing primary spread of diarrhea and vomiting
Major Outcomes Considered
  • Predictive value (sensitivity, specificity) of clinical signs and symptoms
  • Accuracy of laboratory tests in detecting dehydration
  • Risk of dehydration
  • Incidence of bacterial gastroenteritis
  • Cost-effectiveness of rehydration therapy
  • Effectiveness of rehydration therapy

Methodology

Methods Used to Collect/Select the Evidence
Hand-searches of Published Literature (Primary Sources)
Searches of Electronic Databases
Description of Methods Used to Collect/Select the Evidence

Note from the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC): This guideline was developed by the National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health (NCC-WCH) on behalf of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). See the "Availability of Companion Documents" field for the full version of this guidance.

Literature Search Strategy

Initial scoping searches were executed to identify relevant guidelines (local, national and international) produced by other development groups. The reference lists in these guidelines were checked against subsequent searches to identify missing evidence.

Relevant published evidence to inform the guideline development process and answer the clinical questions was identified by systematic search strategies. Additionally, stakeholder organizations were invited to submit evidence for consideration by the Guideline Development Group (GDG) provided it was relevant to the clinical questions and of equivalent or better quality than evidence identified by the search strategies.

Systematic searches to answer the clinical questions formulated and agreed by the GDG were executed using the following databases on the OVID platform: MEDLINE (1950 onwards); Embase (1980 onwards); Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (1982 onwards); Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (1991 to 3rd quarter 2008); Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3rd quarter 2008); and Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (1991 to 3rd quarter 2008).

Search strategies combined relevant controlled vocabulary and natural language in an effort to balance sensitivity and specificity. Unless advised by the GDG, searches were not date specific.

Language restrictions were applied to searches — searches were limited to English language papers only. Both generic and specially developed methodological search filters were used appropriately.

Searches to identify economic studies were undertaken using MEDLINE (1950 onwards); Embase (1980 onwards); the Health Technology Assessment database (2nd quarter 2008); and the National Health Service (NHS) Economic Evaluations Database (NHS EED, 2nd quarter 2008) produced by the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD) at the University of York.

There was no systematic attempt to search grey literature (conferences, abstracts, theses and unpublished trials). Hand searching of journals not indexed on the databases was not undertaken.

All searches were conducted between 21 September 2007 and 27 May 2008. Searches for clinical questions were rerun from 12 to 14 August 2008, before the start of the consultation period. This date period should be considered the starting point for searching for new evidence for future updates to this guideline.

The detailed search strategies, including the methodological filters employed, are provided on the accompanying CD-ROM, and on the NICE website.

Number of Source Documents

Not stated

Methods Used to Assess the Quality and Strength of the Evidence
Expert Consensus
Weighting According to a Rating Scheme (Scheme Given)
Rating Scheme for the Strength of the Evidence

Levels of Evidence for Intervention Studies

1++ High-quality meta-analyses, systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or RCTs with a very low risk of bias

1+ Well-conducted meta-analyses, systematic reviews of RCTs or RCTs with a low risk of bias

1− Meta-analyses, systematic reviews of RCTs or RCTs with a high risk of bias

2++ High-quality systematic reviews of case–control or cohort studies; high-quality case–control or cohort studies with a very low risk of confounding, bias or chance and a high probability that the relationship is causal

2+ Well-conducted case-control or cohort studies with a low risk of confounding, bias or chance and a moderate probability that the relationship is causal

2- Case-control or cohort studies with a high risk of confounding, bias or chance and a significant risk that the relationship is not causal

3 Non-analytical studies (for example case reports, case series)

4 Expert opinion, formal consensus

Levels of Evidence for Studies of the Accuracy of Diagnostics Tests

Ia: Systematic reviews (with homogeneity)a of level-1 studiesb

Ib: Level-1 studiesb

II: Level-2 studiesc; systematic reviews of level-2 studies

III: Level-3 studiesd; systematic reviews of level-3 studies

IV: Consensus, expert committee reports or opinions and/or clinical experience without explicit critical appraisal; or based on physiology, bench research or 'first principles'

a Homogeneity means there are no or minor variations in the directions and degrees of results between individual studies that are included in the systematic review.

b Level-1 studies are studies that use a blind comparison of the test with a validated reference standard (gold standard) in a sample of patients that reflects the population to whom the test would apply.

c Level-2 studies are studies that have only one of the following:

  • Narrow population (the sample does not reflect the population to whom the test would apply)
  • Use a poor reference standard (defined as that where the 'test' is included in the 'reference', or where the 'testing' affects the 'reference')
  • The comparison between the test and reference standard is not blind
  • Case-control studies

d Level-3 studies are studies that have at least two or three of the features listed above.

Methods Used to Analyze the Evidence
Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
Review of Published Meta-Analyses
Systematic Review with Evidence Tables
Description of the Methods Used to Analyze the Evidence

Note from the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC): This guideline was developed by the National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health (NCC-WCH) on behalf of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). See the "Availability of Companion Documents" field for the full version of this guidance.

Synthesis of Clinical Effectiveness Evidence

Evidence relating to clinical effectiveness was reviewed using established guides and classified using the established hierarchical system shown in "Rating Scheme for the Strength of the Evidence" in this summary. This system reflects the susceptibility to bias that is inherent in particular study designs.

The type of clinical question dictates the highest level of evidence that may be sought. In assessing the quality of the evidence, each study receives a quality rating coded as '++', '+' or '−'. For issues of therapy or treatment, the highest possible evidence level (EL) is a well-conducted systematic review or meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) (EL = 1++) or an individual RCT (EL = 1+). Studies of poor quality are rated as '−'. Usually, studies rated as '−' should not be used as a basis for making a recommendation, but they can be used to inform recommendations. For issues of clinical presentation, the highest possible level of evidence is a cohort study (EL = 2++).

For each clinical question, the highest available level of evidence was selected. Where appropriate, for example if a systematic review, meta-analysis or RCT existed in relation to a question, studies of a weaker design were not included. Where systematic reviews, meta-analyses and RCTs did not exist, other appropriate experimental or observational studies were sought.

The system described above covers studies of treatment effectiveness. However, it is less appropriate for studies reporting diagnostic tests of accuracy. In the absence of a validated ranking system for these types of study, NICE has developed a hierarchy for evidence of accuracy of diagnostic tests that takes into account the various factors likely to affect the validity of these studies as seen in the "Rating Scheme for the Strength of the Evidence" in this summary.

For economic evaluations, the search strategies adopted were designed to identify any relevant economic studies. Abstracts of all papers identified were reviewed by the health economists and were discarded if they did not relate to the economic question being considered in the guideline.

The relevant papers were retrieved and critically appraised. Potentially relevant references in the bibliographies of the reviewed papers were also identified and reviewed. All papers reviewed were assessed by the health economists against standard quality criteria for economic evaluation.

Evidence was synthesized qualitatively by summarizing the content of identified papers in a narrative manner with brief statements accurately reflecting the evidence and producing evidence tables. Quantitative synthesis (meta-analysis) was performed where appropriate.

Summary results and data are presented in the guideline text. More detailed results and data are presented in the evidence tables on the accompanying CD-ROM. Where possible, dichotomous outcomes are presented as relative risks (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs), and continuous outcomes are presented as weighted mean differences (WMDs) with 95% CIs.

Health Economics

The aim of the economic input in this guideline was to inform the GDG of potential economic issues relating to the management of dehydration in children, and to ensure that recommendations represented a cost-effective use of scarce resources.

It is not possible to perform economic analysis for every clinical question and therefore some prioritisation is necessary, along the lines suggested in the NICE Technical Manual. Some of the clinical questions do not involve a comparison of alternative courses of action (for example, What factors are associated with an increased risk of dehydration?) and are not amenable to economic analysis. For some questions addressing laboratory investigations, the GDG accepted that these often did not need to be routinely undertaken because such routine investigation would not be cost-effective, as they rarely affect management or health outcomes.

It was thought by the GDG that economic analysis would be important in formulating recommendations for the following two clinical questions:

  • How do oral rehydration therapy (ORT) and intravenous fluid therapy (IVT) compare in terms of safety and efficacy, in the treatment of dehydration?
  • Which interventions (other than fluid therapy and antibiotic treatment) are effective and safe?

The health economics for the latter question focused on oral ondansetron, an anti-emetic treatment.

A systematic search for published economic evidence was undertaken for these questions. For economic evaluations, no standard system of grading the quality of evidence exists and included papers were assessed using a quality assessment checklist based on good practice in decision-analytic modelling. Reviews of the limited relevant published economic literature are presented as part of the appendix detailing the original economic analysis.

The primary economic focus in this guideline was on alternative fluid management therapy for children with dehydration. A decision-analytic model was developed to compare ORT with IVT. A simple economic analysis was also carried out in order to help guide recommendations on the use of ondansetron in vomiting children. The results of both analyses are summarised in the guideline text and a detailed description of the models has been included in Appendices A and B, respectively, or full version of the original guideline document.

Methods Used to Formulate the Recommendations
Expert Consensus
Informal Consensus
Description of Methods Used to Formulate the Recommendations

Note from the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC): This guideline was developed by the National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health (NCC-WCH) on behalf of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). See the "Availability of Companion Documents" field for the full version of this guidance.

The guideline was developed by a multi-professional and lay working group (the Guideline Development Group or GDG) convened by the National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health (NCC-WCH). The membership included:

  • Two paediatric gastroenterologists (including the Chair)
  • Two general paediatricians, one of whom was a community paediatrician
  • One paediatric specialist in infectious diseases
  • One emergency department paediatric specialist
  • Three general practitioners
  • Three nurses, including one emergency nurse practitioner
  • One nurse with expertise in remote assessment through a role in National Health Service (NHS) Direct
  • Two patient/parent/carer members

Staff from the NCC-WCH provided methodological support for the guideline development process, undertook systematic searches, retrieval and appraisal of the evidence, health economics modelling and, together with the Chair, wrote successive drafts of the guideline.

Forming and Grading Recommendations

The evidence tables, evidence overviews and summaries for the key clinical questions being discussed were made available to the GDG before the scheduled GDG meetings, and GDG members were expected to have read these in advance. For each clinical question, recommendations were derived using, and explicitly linked to, the evidence that supported them. Informal consensus methods were used by the GDG to agree evidence statements and recommendations, including the areas where important clinical questions were identified but no substantial evidence existed. The process by which the evidence statements informed the recommendations is summarised in a 'GDG translation' section in the relevant evidence review.

Formal consensus methods were used to agree guideline recommendations and select eight key priorities for implementation.

Rating Scheme for the Strength of the Recommendations

Not applicable

Cost Analysis

The primary economic focus in this guideline was on alternative fluid management therapy for children with dehydration. A decision-analytic model was developed to compare oral rehydration therapy with intravenous fluid therapy.

A simple economic analysis was also carried out in order to help guide recommendations on the use of ondansetron in vomiting children. The results of both analyses are summarised in the guideline text and a detailed description of the models has been included in Appendices A and B, respectively, of the original guideline document.

Method of Guideline Validation
External Peer Review
Internal Peer Review
Description of Method of Guideline Validation

The guideline was validated through two consultations.

  1. The first draft of the guideline (The full guideline, National Institute for Clinical Excellence [NICE] guideline and Quick Reference Guide) were consulted with Stakeholders and comments were considered by the Guideline Development Group (GDG).
  2. The final consultation draft of the full guideline, the NICE guideline and the Information for the Public were submitted to stakeholders for final comments.

The final draft was submitted to the Guideline Review Panel for review prior to publication.

Recommendations

Major Recommendations

Note from the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC): This guideline was developed by the National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health (NCC-WCH) on behalf of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). See the "Availability of Companion Documents" field for the full version of this guidance.

For the purposes of this guideline, an 'infant' is defined as a child younger than 1 year. 'Remote assessment' refers to situations in which a child is assessed by a healthcare professional who is unable to examine the child because the child is geographically remote from the assessor (for example, telephone calls to National Health Service [NHS] Direct).

Diagnosis

Clinical Diagnosis

Suspect gastroenteritis if there is a sudden change in stool consistency to loose or watery stools, and/or a sudden onset of vomiting.

If you suspect gastroenteritis, ask about:

  • Recent contact with someone with acute diarrhoea and/or vomiting and
  • Exposure to a known source of enteric infection (possibly contaminated water or food) and
  • Recent travel abroad

Be aware that in children with gastroenteritis:

  • Diarrhoea usually lasts for 5-7 days, and in most it stops within 2 weeks
  • Vomiting usually lasts for 1-2 days, and in most it stops within 3 days

Consider any of the following as possible indicators of diagnoses other than gastroenteritis:

  • Fever:
    • Temperature of 38 degrees C or higher in children younger than 3 months
    • Temperature of 39 degrees C or higher in children aged 3 months or older
  • Shortness of breath or tachypnoea
  • Altered conscious state
  • Neck stiffness
  • Bulging fontanelle in infants
  • Non-blanching rash
  • Blood and/or mucus in stool
  • Bilious (green) vomit
  • Severe or localised abdominal pain
  • Abdominal distension or rebound tenderness

Laboratory Investigations

Consider performing stool microbiological investigations if:

  • The child has recently been abroad or
  • The diarrhoea has not improved by day 7 or
  • There is uncertainty about the diagnosis of gastroenteritis

Perform stool microbiological investigations if:

  • You suspect septicaemia or
  • There is blood and/or mucus in the stool or
  • The child is immunocompromised

Notify and act on the advice of the public health authorities if you suspect an outbreak of gastroenteritis.

If stool microbiology is performed:

  • Collect, store and transport stool specimens as advised by the investigating laboratory
  • Provide the laboratory with relevant clinical information

Perform a blood culture if giving antibiotic therapy.

In children with Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection, seek specialist advice on monitoring for hemolytic uraemic syndrome.

Assessing Dehydration and Shock

Clinical Assessment

During remote or face-to-face assessment ask whether the child:

  • Appears unwell
  • Has altered responsiveness, for example is irritable or lethargic
  • Has decreased urine output
  • Has pale or mottled skin
  • Has cold extremities

Recognize that the following are at increased risk of dehydration:

  • Children younger than 1 year, particularly those younger than 6 months
  • Infants who were of low birth weight
  • Children who have passed more than five diarrhoeal stools in the previous 24 hours
  • Children who have vomited more than twice in the previous 24 hours
  • Children who have not been offered or have not been able to tolerate supplementary fluids before presentation
  • Infants who have stopped breastfeeding during the illness
  • Children with signs of malnutrition

Use the table below to detect clinical dehydration and shock.

Table: Symptoms and Signs of Clinical Dehydration and Shock

Interpret symptoms and signs taking risk factors for dehydration into account. Within the category of 'clinical dehydration' there is a spectrum of severity indicated by increasingly numerous and more pronounced symptoms and signs. For clinical shock, one or more of the symptoms and/or signs listed would be expected to be present. Dashes (–) indicate that these clinical features do not specifically indicate shock. Symptoms and signs with red flags (marked with an asterisk in the table) (*)  may help to identify children at increased risk of progression to shock. If in doubt, manage as if there are symptoms and/or signs with red flags.

Increasing Severity of Dehydration
  No Clinically Detectable Dehydration Clinical Dehydration Clinical Shock
Symptoms (remote and face-to-face assessments) Appears well *Appears to be unwell or deteriorating
Alert and responsive *Altered responsiveness (for example, irritable, lethargic) Decreased level of consciousness
Normal urine output Decreased urine output
Skin colour unchanged Skin colour unchanged Pale or mottled skin
Warm extremities Warm extremities Cold extremities
Signs (face-to-face assessments) Alert and responsive *Altered responsiveness (for example, irritable, lethargic) Decreased level of consciousness
Skin colour unchanged Skin colour unchanged Pale or mottled skin
Warm extremities Warm extremities Cold extremities
Eyes not sunken *Sunken eyes
Moist mucous membranes (except after a drink) Dry mucous membranes (except for 'mouth breather')
Normal heart rate *Tachycardia Tachycardia
Normal breathing pattern *Tachypnoea Tachypnoea
Normal peripheral pulses Normal peripheral pulses Weak peripheral pulses
Normal capillary refill time Normal capillary refill time Prolonged capillary refill time
Normal skin turgor *Reduced skin turgor
Normal blood pressure Normal blood pressure Hypotension (decompensated shock)

Suspect hypernatraemic dehydration if there are any of the following:

  • Jittery movements
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Hyperreflexia
  • Convulsions
  • Drowsiness or coma

Laboratory Investigations for Assessing Dehydration

Do not routinely perform blood biochemical testing.

Measure plasma sodium, potassium, urea, creatinine and glucose concentrations if:

  • Intravenous fluid therapy is required or
  • There are symptoms and/or signs that suggest hypernatraemia

Measure venous blood acid–base status and chloride concentration if shock is suspected or confirmed.

Fluid Management

Primary Prevention of Dehydration

In children with gastroenteritis but without clinical dehydration:

  • Continue breastfeeding and other milk feeds
  • Encourage fluid intake
  • Discourage the drinking of fruit juices and carbonated drinks, especially in those at increased risk of dehydration
  • Offer oral rehydration salt (ORS) solution as supplemental fluid to those at increased risk of dehydration

Treating Dehydration

Use ORS solution to rehydrate children, including those with hypernatraemia, unless intravenous fluid therapy is indicated.

In children with clinical dehydration, including hypernatraemic dehydration:

  • Use low-osmolarity ORS solution (240-250 mOsm/L)1 for oral rehydration therapy
  • Give 50 ml/kg for fluid deficit replacement over 4 hours as well as maintenance fluid
  • Give the ORS solution frequently and in small amounts
  • Consider supplementation with their usual fluids (including milk feeds or water, but not fruit juices or carbonated drinks) if they refuse to take sufficient quantities of ORS solution and do not have red flag symptoms or signs (see table above)
  • Consider giving the ORS solution via a nasogastric tube if they are unable to drink it or if they vomit persistently
  • Monitor the response to oral rehydration therapy by regular clinical assessment

1The 'British National Formulary (BNF) for children' (BNFC) 2008 edition lists the following products with this composition: Dioralyte, Dioralyte Relief, Electrolade and Rapolyte

Intravenous Fluid Therapy

Use intravenous fluid therapy for clinical dehydration if:

  • Shock is suspected or confirmed
  • A child with red flag symptoms or signs (see table above) shows clinical evidence of deterioration despite oral rehydration therapy
  • A child persistently vomits the ORS solution, given orally or via a nasogastric tube

Treat suspected or confirmed shock with a rapid intravenous infusion of 20 mL/kg of 0.9% sodium chloride solution.

If a child remains shocked after the first rapid intravenous infusion:

  • Immediately give another intravenous infusion of 20 mL/kg of 0.9% sodium chloride solution and
  • Consider possible causes of shock other then dehydration.

Consider consulting a paediatric intensive care specialist if a child remains shocked after the second rapid intravenous infusion.

When symptoms and/or signs of shock resolve after rapid intravenous infusions, start rehydration with intravenous fluid therapy.

If intravenous fluid therapy is required for rehydration (and the child is not hypernatraemic at presentation):

  • Use an isotonic solution such as 0.9% sodium chloride, or 0.9% sodium chloride with 5% glucose, for fluid deficit replacement and maintenance
  • For those who required initial rapid intravenous fluid boluses for suspected or confirmed shock, add 100 ml/kg for fluid deficit replacement to maintenance fluid requirements, and monitor the clinical response
  • For those who were not shocked at presentation, add 50 mL/kg for fluid deficit replacement to maintenance fluid requirements, and monitor the clinical response
  • Measure plasma sodium, potassium, urea, creatinine and glucose at the outset, monitor regularly, and alter the fluid composition or rate of administration if necessary
  • Consider providing intravenous potassium supplementation once the plasma potassium level is known.

If intravenous fluid therapy is required in a child presenting with hypernatraemic dehydration:

  • Obtain urgent expert advice on fluid management
  • Use an isotonic solution such as 0.9% sodium chloride, or 0.9% sodium chloride with 5% glucose for fluid deficit replacement and maintenance
  • Replace the fluid deficit slowly – typically over 48 hours
  • Monitor the plasma sodium frequently, aiming to reduce it at a rate of less than 0.5 mmol/L per hour

Attempt early and gradual introduction of oral rehydration therapy during intravenous fluid therapy. If tolerated, stop intravenous fluids and complete rehydration with oral rehydration therapy.

Fluid Management after Rehydration

After rehydration:

  • Encourage breastfeeding and other milk feeds
  • Encourage fluid intake
  • In children at increased risk of dehydration recurring, consider giving 5 mL/kg of ORS solution after each large watery stool. These include:
    • Children younger than 1 year, particularly those younger than 6 months
    • Infants who were of low birth weight
    • Children who have passed more than five diarrhoeal stools in the previous 24 hours
    • Restart oral rehydration therapy if dehydration recurs after rehydration

Nutritional Management

During rehydration therapy:

  • Continue breastfeeding
  • Do not give solid foods
  • In children with red flag symptoms or signs (see table above), do not give oral fluids other than ORS solution
  • In children without red flag symptoms or signs (see table above), do not routinely give oral fluids other than ORS solution; however, consider supplementation with the child's usual fluids (including milk feeds or water, but not fruit juices or carbonated drinks) if they consistently refuse ORS solution

After rehydration:

  • Give full-strength milk straight away
  • Reintroduce the child's usual solid food
  • Avoid giving fruit juices and carbonated drinks until the diarrhoea has stopped

Antibiotic Therapy

Do not routinely give antibiotics to children with gastroenteritis.

Give antibiotic treatment to all children:

  • With suspected or confirmed septicaemia
  • With extra-intestinal spread of bacterial infection
  • Younger than 6 months with salmonella gastroenteritis
  • Who are malnourished or immunocompromised with salmonella gastroenteritis
  • With Clostridium difficile-associated pseudomembranous enterocolitis, giardiasis, dysenteric shigellosis, dysenteric amoebiasis or cholera

For children who have recently been abroad, seek specialist advice about antibiotic therapy.

Other Therapies

Do not use antidiarrhoeal medications.

Escalation of Care

During remote assessment:

  • Arrange emergency transfer to secondary care for children with symptoms suggesting shock (see table above)
  • Refer for face-to-face assessment children:
    • With symptoms suggesting an alternative serious diagnosis or
    • At high risk of dehydration, taking into account the risk factors or
    • With symptoms suggesting clinical dehydration (see table above) or
    • Whose social circumstances make remote assessment unreliable
  • Provide a 'safety net' for children who do not require referral. The safety net should include information for parents and carers on how to:
    • Recognise developing red flag symptoms (see table above) and
    • Get immediate help from an appropriate healthcare professional if red flag symptoms develop

During face-to-face assessment:

  • Arrange emergency transfer to secondary care for children with symptoms or signs suggesting shock (see table above)
  • Consider repeat face-to-face assessment or referral to secondary care for children:
    • With symptoms and/or signs suggesting an alternative serious diagnosis or
    • With red flag symptoms and/or signs (see table above) or
    • Whose social circumstances require continued involvement of healthcare professionals
  • Provide a safety net for children who will be managed at home. The safety net should include:
    • Information for parents and carers on how to recognise developing red flag symptoms (see table above) and
    • Information on how to get immediate help from an appropriate healthcare professional if red flag symptoms develop and
    • Arrangements for follow-up at a specified time and place, if necessary

Information and Advice for Parents and Carers

Caring for a Child with Diarrhoea and Vomiting at Home

Inform parents and carers that:

  • Most children with gastroenteritis can be safely managed at home, with advice and support from a healthcare professional if necessary
  • The following symptoms may indicate dehydration:
    • Appearing to get more unwell
    • Changing responsiveness (for example, irritability, lethargy)
    • Decreased urine output
    • Pale or mottled skin
    • Cold extremities
  • They should contact a healthcare professional if symptoms of dehydration develop

Advise parents and carers of children:

  • Who are not clinically dehydrated and are not at increased risk of dehydration (see above under "Assessing Dehydration and Shock"):
    • To continue usual feeds, including breast or other milk feeds
    • To encourage the child to drink plenty of fluids
    • To discourage the drinking of fruit juices and carbonated drinks
  • Who are not clinically dehydrated but who are at increased risk of dehydration (see above under "Assessing Dehydration and Shock"):
    • To continue usual feeds, including breast or other milk feeds
    • To encourage the child to drink plenty of fluids
    • To discourage the drinking of fruit juices and carbonated drinks
    • To offer ORS solution as supplemental fluid
  • With clinical dehydration:
    • That rehydration is usually possible with ORS solution
    • To make up the ORS solution according to the instructions on the packaging
    • To give 50 mL/kg of ORS solution for rehydration plus maintenance volume over a 4-hour period
    • To give this amount of ORS solution in small amounts, frequently
    • To seek advice if the child refuses to drink the ORS solution or vomits persistently
    • To continue breastfeeding as well as giving the ORS solution
    • Not to give other oral fluids unless advised
    • Not to give solid foods

Advise parents and carers that after rehydration:

  • The child should be encouraged to drink plenty of their usual fluids, including milk feeds if these were stopped
  • They should avoid giving the child fruit juices and carbonated drinks until the diarrhoea has stopped
  • They should reintroduce the child's usual diet
  • They should give 5 mL/kg ORS solution after each large watery stool if you consider that the child is at increased risk of dehydration(see above under "Assessing Dehydration and Shock")

Advise parents and carers that:

  • The usual duration of diarrhoea is 5-7 days and in most children it stops within 2 weeks
  • The usual duration of vomiting is 1 or 2 days and in most children it stops within 3 days
  • They should seek advice from a specified healthcare professional if the child's symptoms do not resolve within these timeframes

Preventing Primary Spread of Diarrhoea and Vomiting

Advise parents, carers and children that2:

  • Washing hands with soap (liquid if possible) in warm running water and careful drying are the most important factors in preventing the spread of gastroenteritis
  • Hands should be washed after going to the toilet (children) or changing nappies (parents/carers) and before preparing, serving or eating food
  • Towels used by infected children should not be shared
  • Children should not attend any school or other childcare facility while they have diarrhoea or vomiting caused by gastroenteritis
  • Children should not go back to their school or other childcare facility until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Children should not swim in swimming pools for 2 weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea

2This recommendation is adapted from the following guidelines commissioned by the Department of Health:

  • Health Protection Agency (2006) Guidance on Infection Control In Schools and other Child Care Settings. London. Available from Health Protection Agency Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • Working Group of the former PHLS Advisory Committee on Gastrointestinal Infections (2004). Preventing person-to-person spread following gastrointestinal infections: guidelines for public health physicians and environmental health officers. Communicable Disease and Public Health 7(4):362–384.
Clinical Algorithm(s)

A clinical algorithm for fluid management is presented in the full version of the original guideline document.

Evidence Supporting the Recommendations

Type of Evidence Supporting the Recommendations

Recommendations are based on clinical and cost effectiveness evidence, and where this is insufficient, the Guideline Development Group (GDG) used all available information sources and experience to make consensus recommendations using nominal group technique.

Benefits/Harms of Implementing the Guideline Recommendations

Potential Benefits
  • Appropriate diagnosis, assessment and management of diarrhea and vomiting caused by infective gastroenteritis
  • Decreased variation in practice
  • Decreased utilization of healthcare resources
Potential Harms
  • Side effects of antibiotic therapy
  • Risk of phlebitis with intravenous therapy

Qualifying Statements

Qualifying Statements
  • This guidance represents the view of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which was arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. Healthcare professionals are expected to take it fully into account when exercising their clinical judgement. However, the guidance does not override the individual responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or guardian or carer, and informed by the summary of product characteristics of any drugs they are considering.
  • Implementation of this guidance is the responsibility of local commissioners and/or providers. Commissioners and providers are reminded that it is their responsibility to implement the guidance, in their local context, in light of their duties to avoid unlawful discrimination and to have regard to promoting equality of opportunity. Nothing in this guidance should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those duties.

Implementation of the Guideline

Description of Implementation Strategy

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has developed tools to help organisations implement this guidance (see http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG84 External Web Site Policy).

Key Priorities for Implementation

Diagnosis

Perform stool microbiological investigations if:

  • You suspect septicaemia or
  • There is blood and/or mucus in the stool or
  • The child is immunocompromised

Assessing Dehydration and Shock

Use the table in the "Major Recommendations" section of this summary to detect clinical dehydration and shock.

Fluid Management

  • In children with gastroenteritis but without clinical dehydration:
    • Continue breastfeeding and other milk feeds
    • Encourage fluid intake
    • Discourage the drinking of fruit juices and carbonated drinks, especially in those at increased risk of dehydration
    • Offer oral rehydration salt (ORS) solution as supplemental fluid to those at increased risk of dehydration.
  • In children with clinical dehydration, including hypernatraemic dehydration:
    • Use low-osmolarity ORS solution (240–250 mOsm/l) for oral rehydration therapy
    • Give 50 ml/kg for fluid deficit replacement over 4 hours as well as maintenance fluid
    • Give the ORS solution frequently and in small amounts
    • Consider supplementation with their usual fluids (including milk feeds or water, but not fruit juices or carbonated drinks) if they refuse to take sufficient quantities of ORS solution and do not have red flag symptoms or signs (see the table in the "Major Recommendations")
    • Consider giving the ORS solution via a nasogastric tube if they are unable to drink it or if they vomit persistently
    • Monitor the response to oral rehydration therapy by regular clinical assessment
  • Use intravenous fluid therapy for clinical dehydration if:
    • Shock is suspected or confirmed
    • A child with red flag symptoms or signs (see the table in the "Major Recommendations") shows clinical evidence of deterioration despite oral rehydration therapy
    • A child persistently vomits the ORS solution, given orally or via a nasogastric tube
  • If intravenous fluid therapy is required for rehydration (and the child is not hypernatraemic at presentation):
    • Use an isotonic solution, such as 0.9% sodium chloride, or 0.9% sodium chloride with 5% glucose, for both fluid deficit replacement and maintenance
    • For those who required initial rapid intravenous fluid boluses for suspected or confirmed shock, add 100 ml/kg for fluid deficit replacement to maintenance fluid requirements, and monitor the clinical response
    • For those who were not shocked at presentation, add 50 ml/kg for fluid deficit replacement to maintenance fluid requirements, and monitor the clinical response
    • Measure plasma sodium, potassium, urea, creatinine and glucose at the outset, monitor regularly, and alter the fluid composition or rate of administration if necessary
    • Consider providing intravenous potassium supplementation once the plasma potassium level is known.

Nutritional Management

After rehydration:

  • Give full-strength milk straight away
  • Reintroduce the child's usual solid food
  • Avoid giving fruit juices and carbonated drinks until the diarrhoea has stopped

Information and Advice for Parents and Carers

Advise parents, carers and children that:

  • Washing hands with soap (liquid if possible) in warm running water and careful drying is the most important factor in preventing the spread of gastroenteritis.
  • Hands should be washed after going to the toilet (children) or changing nappies (parents/carers) and before preparing, serving or eating food.
  • Towels used by infected children should not be shared.
  • Children should not attend any school or other childcare facility while they have diarrhoea or vomiting caused by gastroenteritis.
  • Children should not go back to their school or other childcare facility until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • Children should not swim in swimming pools for 2 weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea.
Implementation Tools
Audit Criteria/Indicators
Chart Documentation/Checklists/Forms
Clinical Algorithm
Foreign Language Translations
Patient Resources
Quick Reference Guides/Physician Guides
Resources
Slide Presentation
For information about availability, see the Availability of Companion Documents and Patient Resources fields below.

Institute of Medicine (IOM) National Healthcare Quality Report Categories

IOM Care Need
Getting Better
Staying Healthy
IOM Domain
Effectiveness
Patient-centeredness
Timeliness

Identifying Information and Availability

Bibliographic Source(s)
National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health. Diarrhoea and vomiting in children. Diarrhoea and vomiting caused by gastroenteritis: diagnosis, assessment and management in children younger than 5 years. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE); 2009 Apr. 33 p. (NICE clinical guideline; no. 84). 
Adaptation

Not applicable: The guideline was not adapted from another source.

Date Released
2009 Apr
Guideline Developer(s)
National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health - National Government Agency [Non-U.S.]
Source(s) of Funding

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)

Guideline Committee

Guideline Development Group

Composition of Group That Authored the Guideline

Guideline Development Group Members: Dr M Stephen Murphy (Chairman), Senior Lecturer in Paediatrics and Child Health, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham and Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist, Birmingham Children's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Dr Ed Abrahamson, Consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital; Dr Richard Churchill, GP and Clinical Associate Professor, University of Nottingham Medical School; Miss Dianne L Cook, Children's Community Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Children's Community Nursing Service, Manchester NHS Primary Care Trust; Dr John Crimmins, General Practitioner, Vale of Glamorgan; Dr Saul Faust, Senior Lecturer/Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Immunology and Infectious Diseases, University of Southampton; Dr Alastair Hay, Consultant Senior Lecturer in Primary Health Care, University of Bristol and General Practitioner; Ms Naryndar Johal, Parent/Carer Member; Mrs Julie Marriott, Parent/Carer Member; Dr Nigel Meadows, Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer, Barts and the London NHS Trust; Mr Simon Minford, Advanced Paediatric Nurse Practitioner and Lecturer, Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool; Dr Robert Moy, Senior Lecturer in Community Child Health, College of Medical and Dental Science, University of Birmingham; Mrs Enid Povey, National Clinical Development Manager, NHS Direct, Bolton; Dr Gyanranjan Sinha, Consultant Paediatrician, Walsall Hospitals NHS Trust; Mrs Jenny Taylor, Advanced Paediatric Nurse Practitioner, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust

Financial Disclosures/Conflicts of Interest

At each Guideline Development Group (GDG) meeting, all GDG members declared any potential conflict of interests.

All GDG members' interests were recorded on declaration forms provided by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). The form covered consultancies, fee-paid work, shareholdings, fellowships and support from the healthcare industry.

Guideline Status

This is the current release of the guideline.

Guideline Availability

Electronic copies: Available in Portable Document Format (PDF) format from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Web site External Web Site Policy.

Availability of Companion Documents

The following are available:

  • Diarrhoea and vomiting in children. Diarrhoea and vomiting caused by gastroenteritis: diagnosis, assessment and management in children younger than 5 years. Quick reference guide. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2009 Apr. 15 p. (Clinical guideline; no. 84). Electronic copies: Available in Portable Document Format (PDF) from the NICE Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting caused by gastroenteritis diagnosis, assessment and management in children younger than 5 years. Full guideline. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2009 Apr. 174 p. (Clinical guideline; no. 84). Electronic copies: Available in Portable Document Format (PDF) from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting in children. Costing statement. Implementing NICE guidance. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2009 Apr. 3 p. (Clinical guideline; no. 84). Electronic copies: Available in Portable Document Format (PDF) from the NICE Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting in children under 5. Implementing NICE guidance. Slide set. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2009. 17 p. (Clinical guideline; no. 84). Electronic copies: Available in Portable Document Format (PDF) from the NICE Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting in children. Audit support. Implementing NICE guidance. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2009. 17 p. (Clinical guideline; no. 84). Electronic copies: Available in Portable Document Format (PDF) from the NICE Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • Assessing dehydration chart. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE); 2009 April. Electronic copies: Available in Portable Document Format (PDF) from the NICE Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • Assessing dehydration chart. Slide set. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE); 2009 April. Electronic copies: Available in Portable Document Format (PDF) from the NICE Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting in children under 5: parent/carer advice sheet to support consultation. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE); 2009 April. Electronic copies: Available in Portable Document Format (PDF) from the NICE Web site External Web Site Policy.
  • The guidelines manual 2007. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE); 2007 April. Electronic copies: Available in Portable Document Format (PDF) from the NICE Web site External Web Site Policy.
Patient Resources

The following is available:

  • Diarrhoea and vomiting in children. Understanding NICE guidance - Information for people who use NHS services. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; 2009 Apr. 7 p. (Clinical guideline; no. 84). Electronic copies: Available in Portable Document Format (PDF) from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Web site External Web Site Policy. Also available in Welsh from the NICE Web site External Web Site Policy.

Please note: This patient information is intended to provide health professionals with information to share with their patients to help them better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. By providing access to this patient information, it is not the intention of NGC to provide specific medical advice for particular patients. Rather we urge patients and their representatives to review this material and then to consult with a licensed health professional for evaluation of treatment options suitable for them as well as for diagnosis and answers to their personal medical questions. This patient information has been derived and prepared from a guideline for health care professionals included on NGC by the authors or publishers of that original guideline. The patient information is not reviewed by NGC to establish whether or not it accurately reflects the original guideline's content.

NGC Status

This summary was completed by ECRI Institute on March 11, 2010.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has granted the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) permission to include summaries of their clinical guidelines with the intention of disseminating and facilitating the implementation of that guidance. NICE has not yet verified this content to confirm that it accurately reflects that original NICE guidance and therefore no guarantees are given by NICE in this regard. All NICE clinical guidelines are prepared in relation to the National Health Service in England and Wales. NICE has not been involved in the development or adaptation of NICE guidance for use in any other country. The full versions of all NICE guidance can be found at www.nice.org.uk External Web Site Policy.

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