An anti-vomiting drug called ondansetron helps dehydrated children vomit less and take in more fluids, and reduces the time they spend in the emergency department, according to researchers from the University of Toronto in Canada and Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Researchers randomly divided 215 children between 6 months and 10 years of age who had visited the emergency department for vomiting and dehydration into two groups. While they received oral fluids to combat the dehydration, one group of children received a tablet of ondansetron whereas the other group received an inactive placebo tablet.
Researchers monitored how often the children vomited, how much fluid they took in, and whether there were any breathing or heart problems after taking the drug. Later, in a telephone call with researchers, parents noted whether the child had returned to the emergency department or experienced any additional symptoms.
Overall, the children taking ondansetron:
- were less likely to vomit
- vomited less often
- drank more fluids
- were less likely to need fluids given intravenously
- spent less time in the emergency department
Although children taking ondansetron tended to have more episodes of diarrhea than children taking the placebo, ondansetron wasn't linked to any dangerous side effects.
What This Means to You. An anti-vomiting drug may help dehydrated children keep fluids down and reduce vomiting, which could reduce the need for intravenous fluids or long emergency department visits. However, these types of medicines, also sometimes called anti-emetics, should only be used with a doctor's guidance.
If your child has been vomiting or having diarrhea, give him or her small amounts of fluids frequently to combat dehydration. Your child's doctor may recommend milk, water, juice, or an oral rehydration solution that is sold over the counter. If your child has explosive diarrhea, frequent vomiting, or you feel that your child isn’t improving or that the dehydration is getting worse, call the doctor immediately or take your child to the nearest emergency department.
Source: Stephen B. Freedman, MDCM; Mark Adler, MD; Roopa Seshadri, PhD; Elizabeth C. Powell, MD, MPH; New England Journal of Medicine, April 20, 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: May 2006