Acute diarrhoea is a leading cause of child mortality in developing countries. Principal pathogens include Escherichia coli, rotaviruses, and noroviruses. 90% of diarrhoeal deaths are attributable to inadequate sanitation. Acute diarrhoea is the second leading cause of overall childhood mortality and accounts for 18% of deaths among children under five. In 2004 an estimated 1.5 million children died from diarrhoea, with 80% of deaths occurring before the age of two. Treatment goals are to prevent dehydration and nutritional damage and to reduce duration and severity of diarrhoeal episodes. The recommended therapeutic regimen is to provide oral rehydration solutions (ORS) and to continue feeding. Although ORS effectively mitigates dehydration, it has no effect on the duration, severity, or frequency of diarrhoeal episodes. Adjuvant therapy with micronutrients, probiotics, or antidiarrhoeal agents may thus be useful. The WHO recommends the use of zinc tablets in association with ORS. The ESPGHAN/ESPID treatment guidelines consider the use of racecadotril, diosmectite, or probiotics as possible adjunctive therapy to ORS. Only racecadotril and diosmectite reduce stool output, but no treatment has yet been shown to reduce hospitalisation rate or mortality. Appropriate management with validated treatments may help reduce the health and economic burden of acute diarrhoea in children worldwide. 1. Introduction Diarrhoeal disease is a major public health concern for both developed and developing countries. Acute diarrhoea is a leading cause of child mortality in developing countries, accounting for 1.5–2 million deaths in children under five years . In consequence, the economic impact of the disease and its treatment are of considerable importance. The aim of the present paper is to provide an update on the aetiology, epidemiology, and treatment of acute diarrhoea in children. 2. Definition Acute diarrhoea is defined as the production of three or more watery stools a day for less than 14 days. In nonsevere acute diarrhoea of gastroenteritic origin, these stools do not contain visible amounts of blood or mucus. If this occurs, then the appropriate diagnosis is dysentery, which requires specific management. The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasises the importance of parental insight in deciding whether children have diarrhoea or not, and in the first few months of life, a conspicuous change in stool consistency rather than stool frequency must be taken into account . 3. Aetiology of Acute Diarrhoea in Children Acute infectious diarrhoea results from
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