Open Access Research article

Burden of acute gastroenteritis among children younger than 5 years of age – a survey among parents in the United Arab Emirates

Mohammad Howidi1*, Nawal Al Kaabi2, Antoine C El Khoury3, Agnes Brandtmüller4, Laszlo Nagy5, Etienne Richer6, Wissam Haddadin7 and Mohamad S Miqdady8*

Author Affiliations

1 Pediatrics department, Mafraq Hospital, Abu Dhabi, UAE

2 Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi, UAE

3 Global Health Outcomes, Merck & Co., Inc, WP97-A217, Sumneytown Pike, West Point, PA, 19486-0004, USA

4 Budapest, Hungary

5 MSD Hungary, Budapest, Hungary

6 Biomedcom Consultants inc, Montreal, QC, Canada

7 Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), Abu Dhabi, PO Box 29034, UAE

8 Pediatric Gastroenterology, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi, UAE

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BMC Pediatrics 2012, 12:74  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-74

Published: 18 June 2012



Despite its high incidence among children under the age of five, little is known about the burden of pediatric gastroenteritis outside the medical setting. The objective of this study was to describe the burden of acute gastroenteritis among children residing in the United Arab Emirates, including those not receiving medical care.


A quantitative cross-sectional survey of 500 parents of children under 5 years of age who had suffered from acute gastroenteritis the preceding three months was conducted in the cities of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Data collected included respondent characteristics, disease symptoms, medical care sought, and parental expenditures and work loss. Data were analyzed using parametric and non-parametric statistical methods.


Vomiting and diarrhea episodes lasted on average between 3 and 4 days. Overall, 87% of parents sought medical care for their children; 10% of these cases required hospitalization with an average length of stay of 2.6 days. When medical care was sought, the average parental cost per gastroenteritis episode was US$64, 4.5 times higher than with home care only (US$14). Nearly 60% of this difference was attributable to co-payments and medication use: 69% of children used oral rehydration solution, 68% antiemetics, 65% antibiotics and 64% antidiarrheals. Overall, 38 parents missed work per 100 gastroenteritis episodes for an average of 1.4 days.


Given its high incidence, pediatric gastroenteritis has an important financial and productivity impact on parents in the United Arab Emirates. To reduce this impact, efforts should be made both to prevent acute gastroenteritis and to optimize its treatment.