Background: As diarrhoea mortality is negligible in Italy, other costs should be considered when planning health strategies. Little is known about the costs associated with diarrhoea in Italian children.
Aims: To assess the costs associated with outpatient infantile diarrhoea in Italy.
Methods: Primary care paediatricians from five regions filled in a questionnaire for the first 10 children (1-47 months) they visited for acute diarrhoea during a 3-month period.
Results: We analysed 473 questionnaires. Mean age (standard deviation) of children was 21 (11) months; mean duration of diarrhoea (standard deviation) was 4.3 (2.6) days. An overall cost of 110 (137) euro per episode was estimated, with significant difference between children younger and older than 36 months (116 euro versus 72 euro). Missed work by relatives accounts for 75% of the cost. The parents of children attending a day-care centre had an increased risk to miss work (relative risk = 2.15). A weak relationship was found between days of diarrhoea and missed work (r = 0.30); it could be estimated that the diarrhoea should be shortened by about 4 days in order to save I day of missed work.
Conclusions: Acute outpatient diarrhoea is associated with a significant financial burden in Italy. Simply shortening the diarrhoea does not seem to be the most expeditious way to reduce the cost of diarrhoea itself.