Pre-hospital management and risk factors in children with acute diarrhoea admitted to a short-stay ward in an urban South African hospital with a high HIV burden
AbstractBackground. Diarrhoea remains a major cause of childhood morbidity and mortality in the developing world. Implementation of World Health Organization Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) guidelines and pre-hospital use of oral rehydration therapy (ORT) in the Western Cape Province of South Africa are not well described.
Objectives. To document pre-hospital home and primary care management of diarrhoea, and certain risk factors and complications of
Methods. We used a prospective descriptive convenience sample of children admitted to the short-stay ward at Tygerberg Hospital, Parow,
Cape Town, between 1 February 2007 and 31 May 2008. Caregivers were interviewed, and demographic, clinical and laboratory variables were collected.
Results. We recruited 142 children, median age 8.9 months. A third had moderate malnutrition. Twenty–four (16.9%) were HIV-exposed, with 9 (6.3%) HIV-infected. HIV-exposed children were significantly younger than unexposed children (p=0.03). Weight-for-age Z-scores (WAZ) were significantly lower in HIV-infected than in HIV-exposed, uninfected children (p=0.02). Eighty per cent of caregivers gave ORT and 35.2% stopped feeds. Only 1 of 43 children aged under 6 months was exclusively breastfed. Advice at primary care level rarely complied with IMCI guidelines.
Conclusions. Most caregivers do give ORT, but advice given at primary care level is often suboptimal. Many hospitalised children with diarrhoea are malnourished. Children with HIV infection are at increased risk of diarrhoeal disease and malnutrition, and HIV exposure appears to increase the risk of early presentation with diarrhoea. Ongoing strategies are needed to ensure optimal prevention policies, prehospital management and nutritional rehabilitation.