Since the consensus was published in 2005, a lot of doctors forget zinc supplementation as part of the treatment algorithm for diarrhea. Some pediatricians argue that most of their patients were already prescribed multivitamins that contain adequate zinc content that further supplementation may not be necessary. But how sure are they that the mother is giving the multivitamins to their sick child?
In my rural health primary practice, many mothers are surprised that I recommend zinc or other vitamins during illness. Further probing told me that they stop all vitamins once they have a sick child. It was an old practice that was passed down but is now obsolete.
The following is WHO’s recommendations regarding zinc:
Zinc can be given as a syrup or as dispersible tablets, whichever formulation is available and affordable. By giving zinc as soon as diarrhoea starts, the duration and severity of the episode as well as the risk of dehydration will be reduced. By continuing zinc supplementation for 10 to 14 days, the zinc lost during diarrhoea is fully replaced and the risk of the child having new episodes of diarrhoea in the following 2 to 3 months is reduced.
This was taken from Treatment of Diarrhea 2005.
Remember to supplement zinc during diarrhea and if you are a mother reading this article, ask your pediatrician if you can switch to better forms of zinc than your plain old multivitamins. Also, stress to the caregiver it’s importance so as to greatly increase compliance.
Zinc sulfate drops and syrup are available for free in barangay health centers. We are only one of the 46 countries that have a national policy on this.
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.