Background Most diarrhoeal deaths can be prevented through the prevention and treatment of dehydration. Oral rehydration solution (ORS) and recommended home fluids (RHFs) have been recommended since 1970s and 1980s to prevent and treat diarrhoeal dehydration. We sought to estimate the effects of these interventions on diarrhoea mortality in children aged <5 years.
Methods We conducted a systematic review to identify studies evaluating the efficacy and effectiveness of ORS and RHFs and abstracted study characteristics and outcome measures into standardized tables. We categorized the evidence by intervention and outcome, conducted meta-analyses for all outcomes with two or more data points and graded the quality of the evidence supporting each outcome. The CHERG Rules for Evidence Review were used to estimate the effectiveness of ORS and RHFs against diarrhoea mortality.
Results We identified 205 papers for abstraction, of which 157 were included in the meta-analyses of ORS outcomes and 12 were included in the meta-analyses of RHF outcomes. We estimated that ORS may prevent 93% of diarrhoea deaths.
Conclusions ORS is effective against diarrhoea mortality in home, community and facility settings; however, there is insufficient evidence to estimate the effectiveness of RHFs against diarrhoea mortality.