Brown researchers develop method to diagnose dehydration in children

Caregivers based in clinics where there are many patients but few resources will be able to use this fast, accurate test to learn how severe a child’s dehydration is. | File photo
Researchers at Brown University have developed a tool for diagnosing dehydration among children, potentially helping countless children around the world who suffer from and even die due to dehydration because of diarrhea.

Caregivers based in clinics where there are many patients but few resources will be able to use this fast, accurate test to learn how severe a child’s dehydration is. It has been tested on approximately 500 children in Dhaka, Bangladesh, making it the most used diagnosis method for dehydration available.

“The Dhaka score now has better evidence for its performance in assessing dehydration in a specifically low-income country setting than any other scale,” Adam Levine, associate professor of emergency medicine in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and lead author of the study in The Lancet Global Health, said. “Looking at it from an evidence-based medicine point of view, it is better than anything else out there.”

There are four symptoms that the test looks for. Does the child appear irritable, restless, lethargic or unconscious? Does the child’s skin quickly snap back or slowly respond if it is pinched? Does the child’s breathing sound deep or normal? Does the child have normal volumes of tears, less than normal volume or none?

“Not only is this the first score to be derived and validated in a low-income country setting, but the Dhaka study is also the largest study ever of dehydration assessment of kids anywhere,” Levine said. “If you take the derivation and validation studies together with more than 1,200 children, that’s more than all of the children who have been involved in every other study of every other dehydration scale ever assessed in the developing or the developed world.”

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