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January 1998

The Early History of the Treatment for Dehydration

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152(1):71-73. doi:10.1001/archpedi.152.1.71

The difficulties of managing dehydration in infants, along with the special problems of infant feeding in the wake of the industrial revolution, led to the specialty of pediatrics. The scientific and clinical beginnings that preceded the specialty are reviewed; much that came later can be credited to pediatric scientists.

Although there have been several reviews of the work of early physicians in recognizing and treating dehydration, the unique role of these endeavors in paralleling experimental medicine has not been stressed. This article does that and also serves to inform pediatricians of the origins of therapies considered routine and often oversimplified, obscuring their physiologic basis. I have used largely secondary sources to construct a narration of the pertinent events leading to the end of the second decade of the 20th century, a point representing the end of the beginning.1-6