MULTICENTER STUDY
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A prospective comparative study of children with gastroenteritis: emergency department compared with symptomatic care at home.

Little is known about the epidemiology and severity of gastroenteritis among children treated at home. We sought to compare illness severity and etiology between children brought for emergency department (ED) care to those managed at home (i.e., community). Prospective cohort study of children enrolled between December 2014 and December 2016 in two pediatric EDs in Alberta, Canada along with children treated at home after telephone triage (i.e., community). Primary outcomes were maximal frequency of vomiting and diarrhea in the 24-h pre-enrollment period; secondary outcomes included etiologic pathogens, dehydration severity, future healthcare visits, and treatments provided. A total of 1613 patients (1317 ED, 296 community) were enrolled. Median maximal frequency of vomiting was higher in the ED cohort (5 (3, 10) vs. 5 (2, 8); P < 0.001). Proportion of children with diarrhea and its 24-h median frequency were lower in the ED cohort (61.3 vs. 82.8% and 2 (0, 6) vs. 4 (1, 7); P < 0.001, respectively). In regression analysis, the ED cohort had a higher maximum number of vomiting episodes pre-enrollment (incident rate ratio (IRR) 1.25; 95% CI 1.12, 1.40) while the community cohort had higher maximal 24-h period diarrheal episodes (IRR 1.20; 95% CI 1.01, 1.43). Norovirus was identified more frequently in the community cohort (36.8% vs. 23.6%; P < 0.001). Children treated in the ED have a greater number of vomiting episodes; those treated at home have more diarrheal episodes. Norovirus is more common among children treated symptomatically at home and thus may represent a greater burden of disease than previously thought.

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