Introduction Diarrhoea continues to be a serious problem in children and may be fatal when superimposed upon malnutrition.
Objective To determine the frequency of electrolyte disturbances in malnourished children with diarrhea and whether these findings have therapeutic value or not.
Methodology We included in the study 400 children age 6 months to 5 years admitted for acute watery diarrhea. On the basis of history, physical examination and anthropometrics measurement they were divided into Group A patients (n=116) who were malnourished and Group B patients (n=284) with normal nutrition. Serum electrolytes were done in patients of both groups and the results were analyzed statistically.
Results Analysis of serum electrolytes in both groups revealed that hypokalemia, hyponatremia and low serum bicarbonate were seen more frequently in patients of group A as compared to group B. In group A hypokalemia was seen in 39 patients (39/116 or 33.62%) while it was observed in 42 patients (42/284 or 14.78%) in group B (p<0.001). Hyponatremia was seen in 21 patients (21/116 or 18.10%) in group A and in 14 patients (14/284 or 4.92%) in group B (p<0.001). In group A 96 patients (96/116 or 82.7%) had low serum bicarbonate while in group B 122 patients (122/284 or 42.95%) had low serum bicarbonate value (p<0.001).
Conclusion Electrolyte disturbances were commonly seen in malnourished children with acute diarrhea. The measurement of serum electrolytes is helpful for immediate therapy to avoid serious life threatening situation. Key words: Acute diarrhea, malnutrition, electrolytes.