Background: As the signs of dehydration often overlap with those of pneumonia, it may be difficult for health workers in resource-poor settings to make a clinical diagnosis of pneumonia in children with dehydration. This issue has received very little attention.
Aim: To compare the clinical features of pneumonia in children with and without dehydration caused by diarrhoea.
Methods: All children aged 2-59 months with diarrhoea and radiologically confirmed pneumonia admitted to the Special Care Ward (SCW) of Dhaka Hospital, ICDDR,B between September and December 2007 were enrolled for the study. Children with dehydration (67 cases) and those without (101 controls) were compared.
Results: Cases presented less frequently with fast breathing (60% vs 88%, p<0.001) and lower chest-wall indrawing (67% vs 82%, p=0.035) than did controls. In logistic regression analysis, cases more often had severe malnutrition (OR 2.31, CI 1.06-5.02, p=0.035) and cyanosis (OR 19.05, CI 1.94-186.68, p=0.011) and were abnormally sleepy (OR 372, CI 1.71-8.08, p=0.001).
Conclusions: Fast breathing and lower chest-wall indrawing may be less reliable for the diagnosis of pneumonia in children with dehydration, especially when there is severe malnutrition.