Gatorade in Diarrhea: not First Line therapy

Gatorade, a popular sports drink, is continually being used by some pediatricians despite the fact that it is not a first line therapy for acute diarrhea or vomiting. It is marketed as a sports drink and should only be used as such.

Gatorade is a fluid high in sugars and low in salts. It is preferred by most infants and toddlers due to the taste but the risk of osmotic diarrhea prevents me from recommending it. Its use can only be recommended if there is no suitable replacement for plain ORS but the quantity required to treat some signs of dehydration is still dependent on the salt content. Compared to ORS, you will need twice the amount of Gatorade to replenish the same amount of fluid deficit. ORS is therefore cheaper and far more effective. If the patient may exhibit NO signs of dehydration, Gatorade can be actually be used. However, there lies no consensus among concerned medical parties and is therefore not recommended. Start oral rehydration salts early to prevent further dehydration instead.

Related Story: What Your Doctor Wants To Know About Your Diarrhea: Quality and Quantity

Other common fluids also exist that are used by Filipina mothers that may be harmful include coffee, carbonated drinks and carbonated juices. I have met many mothers who have given coffee to a sick infant, further increasing the dehydration and the diarrhea. These are mothers who are usually reluctant to seek consult and are the ones that bring their child to attention only when severe dehydration and malnutrition is observed.

Salt is the primary method of treating diarrhea. Rice washings could be salted to provide a better alternative but the WHO recommends early access to ORS since the recipe is often forgotten.

ORS is provided free in barangay health centers and, if there is shortage, is inexpensive when bought in a local drug store. Gatorade and other fluids are far more expensive, less efficacious, and could be harmful to the child.

Dr. Mella is currently the head of the Committee on Diarrheal Diseases in Olongapo City. This is part of an education campaign to combat diarrhea.

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