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Can Sports Drinks Rehydrate Sick Kids?

Study Shows Gatorade May Be as Effective as Pedialyte for Kids With Stomach Flu

WebMD Health News

Oct. 31, 2005 -- Sports drinks such as Gatorade may be as good as rehydration solutions -- such as Pedialyte -- in helping children with mild diarrhea and vomiting caused by a viral illness.

A new study shows that Gatorade was as effective as Pedialyte at rehydrating and easing diarrhea in children with viral gastroenteritis. Sometimes called the "stomach flu," viral gastroenteritis is caused by a virus that may trigger diarrhea and/or vomiting and usually improves by itself within a week.

The results were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Honolulu.

Gatorade vs. Pedialyte for Rehydration

Researchers in India compared the effectiveness of Gatorade, Pedialyte, or a new solution containing carbohydrates, sodium, and potassium in treating 61 children with viral gastroenteritis. The children were assigned to receive one of the three beverages for 48 hours while also receiving a diet of rice and yogurt.

The results showed that all three solutions led to improvements in stool frequency, stool consistency, and body weight in the children, and there were no differences between the different solutions.

When asked to rate the three solutions in terms of taste, Gatorade and the new solution rated higher than the Pedialyte.

However, the study also showed that a potassium deficiency, which is often seen with vomiting and diarrhea, persisted in some children treated with Gatorade after 48 hours.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says though viral diarrhea usually runs its course and resolves within about a week, there are some things that parents should keep in mind:

  • Watch for signs of dehydration in your child including a decrease in urination, no tears when crying, a dry mouth, extreme thirst, listlessness, and sunken eyes.
  • Call your doctor if there is blood in your child's stool.
  • Call your doctor if your child has a high fever (more than 102 degrees).
  • The child should continue to eat if there is no vomiting.
  • Do not use diarrhea medicines unless prescribed by your pediatrician.
  • Do not use salty broth and soups.

The study was supported by a grant from the Gatorade Sports Institute.

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