Zinc supplementation in the management of diarrhoea
Diarrhoea remains a leading cause of death globally among children under five years of age. Diarrhoea contributes to nutritional deficiencies, reduced resistance to infections and impaired growth and development. Severe diarrhoea leads to fluid loss, and may be life-threatening, particularly in young children and people who are already malnourished or have impaired immunity.
Zinc is important for cellular growth, cellular differentiation and metabolism and deficiency limits childhood growth and decreases resistance to infections. Although severe zinc deficiency is rare in humans, mild to moderate deficiency may be common worldwide.
Zinc supplementation has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of diarrhoea, and to prevent subsequent episodes, although the mechanisms by which zinc exerts its anti-diarrhoeal effect are not fully understood.
Mothers, other caregivers and health workers should provide children with 20 mg per day of zinc supplementation for 10-14 days (10 mg per day for infants under the age of six months).
Status: not currently available
Other guidance documents
Implementing the new recommendations on the clinical management of diarrhoea : guidelines for policy makers and programme managers
The treatment of diarrhoea: A manual for physicians and other senior health workers
Clinical management of acute diarrhoea: a WHO and UNICEF joint statement
Related Cochrane reviews
Oral zinc for treating diarrhoea in children
Zinc supplementation for preventing mortality, morbidity, and growth failure in children aged 6 months to 12 years of age
Other related systematic reviews
Oral zinc supplementation for the treatment of acute diarrhea in children: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Preventive zinc supplementation in developing countries: impact on mortality and morbidity due to diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria
Zinc for the treatment of diarrhoea: effect on diarrhoea morbidity, mortality and incidence of future episodes.
Therapeutic value of zinc supplementation in acute and persistent diarrhea: a systematic review
A meta-analysis of the effects of oral zinc in the treatment of acute and persistent diarrhea.
Role of zinc administration in prevention of childhood diarrhea and respiratory illnesses: a meta-analysis.
Therapeutic effects of oral zinc in acute and persistent diarrhea in children in developing countries: pooled analysis of randomized controlled trials