Objective: To determine which rehydration method, oral or intravenous, parents would choose for their child when given the opportunity to make an informed decision and to determine factors influencing preference.
Methods: Parents of children, aged 6 months to 5 years, who presented to a pediatric emergency department with a chief complaint of vomiting and/or diarrhea were eligible. After triage evaluation and before physician assessment, research assistants presented educational materials regarding the method, risks, and benefits of both oral and intravenous rehydration. Parents were then asked to complete a survey asking them their preference, reasons for their preference, questions about their child's current illness, and demographic information.
Results: Two hundred sixty parents completed the study. Ninety eight (38%) preferred oral rehydration, and 162 (62%) preferred intravenous rehydration. Time of day, presence of siblings in the ED requiring parental attention, presence of another adult to provide support, parental age, educational attainment, and employment status were not statistically associated with the stated preference. Of those parents who selected intravenous rehydration, 53% stated that they would choose oral rehydration if there was an oral medication available that would significantly decrease vomiting. Of those parents who selected oral rehydration, 32% stated that they would choose intravenous rehydration if there was a topical medication available that would significantly decrease the pain of intravenous catheter placement.
Conclusions: When given the opportunity to make an informed decision, more parents chose intravenous rehydration. However, the prospect of an effective oral antiemetic medication might lead more parents to choose oral rehydration.