Rice water in treatment of infantile gastroenteritis

Lancet. 1981 Jul 11;2(8237):102-3. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(81)90462-1.


PIP: In Singapore the World Health Organization's (WHO's) oral electrolyte solution for the treatment of infantile gastroenteritis has been used for 6 years and rice water has been used for 8 years. The rice water is the water used in preparing boiled rice or congee and is a slightly starchy solution. As the impression was that rice water was as effective as or even better than the oral electrolyte solution, a trial was conducted of the 2 solutions in babies with gastroenteritis admitted to the Department of Pediatrics of the National University of Singapore. Alternate cases were assigned consecutively to the oral electrolyte solution or to rice water. There were 63 patients on oral electrolyte and 67 on rice water. Milk was totally withdrawn for 24 hours after admission and the babies were put on 1 or the other oral solution. Intravenous 3.75% glucose and 0.23% saline was given at the same time to babies considered to be more dehydrated. On day 2, quarter strength powdered milk was given, followed by half strength on day 3, three-quarters strength on day 4, and full strength on day 5. Electrolyte and urea values were compared, both for "drip" versus "no drip" within oral treatment groups and between electrolyte solution and rice water groups (20 comparisons altogether). There were only 3 significant differences, and these might be explained by the intravenous drip and by the better water absorption from rice water than from the oral electrolyte solution. The most obvious difference in the 2 groups was in the effect on diarrhea (stools/day). Rice water cut down the number of stools more effectively than did oral electrolyte solution. No patient died, and there were no pathological sequelae in any of the 130 patients. Rice water can be tried as a more practical alternative to oral electrolyte solutions since there are problems with providing oral elecrolyte solutions to all babies with diarrhea in the developing countries and ensuring sterility.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Electrolytes / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Gastroenteritis / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Oryza*
  • Solutions
  • Starch


  • Electrolytes
  • Solutions
  • Starch