Restriction of oral intake of water for aspiration lung disease in children

Primary aspiration of food and fluid can cause serious lung consequences in infants and children. Treatment recommendations for children who have primary aspiration of thin fluids includes restriction of thin fluids and provision of thickened fluids. Children often refuse to drink thickened fluids presenting a challenge for families to ensure that the child takes sufficient fluid. Allowing children who have thin fluid aspiration to drink water may assist in providing enough fluid without endangering the lung . This review found no evidence about drinking water in children with primary aspiration of thin fluids.

Authors' conclusions: 

There are no trials that have adequately evaluated the pulmonary effects of allowing or restricting oral water ingestion in children known to have primary aspiration of thin fluids. Thus, there is currently an absence of evidence to support a strict approach of full restriction of oral intake of water or support a more liberal approach of allowing oral water ingestion in children with primary aspiration of thin fluids.

Read the full abstract...

Primary aspiration of food and fluid is commonly seen in children with feeding and swallowing difficulties associated with a range of diseases and complex medical conditions. Respiratory sequelae and pneumonia are known to be associated with primary aspiration of ingested material, however causality between primary aspiration of specific food and fluid types and pulmonary effects in children is yet to be established in controlled trials. The relative pulmonary morbidity of aspiration of ingested food and fluid materials versus other causes of respiratory disease such as viral and bacterial causes, secondary aspiration of gastrointestinal contents and predisposing lung conditions such as chronic neonatal lung disease in a developing immune system is also unclear. Current management decisions for children who aspirate have to optimise oral nutrition and hydration, while reducing the risk of aspiration to preserve pulmonary integrity. This generally includes restricting aspirated food or fluids and providing texture-modified diets and thickened fluids. Young children frequently refuse thickened fluids providing a management dilemma for both families and health professionals.


Our objective was to evaluate the efficacy of restriction of oral water ingestion on the pulmonary status of children with thin fluid aspiration demonstrated on a modified barium swallow study.

Search strategy: 

The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), the Cochrane Airways Collaborative Review Group Specialised Register, MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL databases were searched by the Cochrane Airways Group. The latest search was performed in May 2102.

Selection criteria: 

All randomised controlled trials comparing restriction of oral intake of water with unlimited oral water ingestion were eligible to be included.

Data collection and analysis: 

Results of searches were reviewed against a pre-determined criteria for inclusion. No eligible trials were identified for a paediatric population and thus no data were available for analysis. One trial in an adult population was identified and reported.

Main results: 

No randomised controlled trials examining the efficacy of restriction of oral intake of water in the management of children with thin fluid aspiration were found. In a single study in an adult population with stroke, no significant differences were seen between a control group of oral water restriction and the experimental group of unlimited oral water ingestion on outcomes such as pneumonia, total oral fluid intake and dehydration.