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Assess the safety of rapid intravenous rehydration of severely malnourished children and compare the efficacy of 3 formulations of oral rehydration salts solutions.A group of 175 severely malnourished children of either sex (weight/length <70% of National Center for Health Statistics median), ages 6 to 36 months with cholera, were randomly assigned to receive 1 of 3 oral rehydration solutions (ORSs): glucose-ORS (n = 58), glucose-ORS plus 50 g/L of amylase-resistant starch (n = 59), or rice-ORS (n = 58). Severely dehydrated children at enrollment were administered 100 mL/kg of an intravenous solution for 4 to 6 hours before randomisation, and those with some dehydration were randomised on enrollment. The electrolytes of the 3 ORSs were identical. In acute and convalescence phases, treatment was similar other than the nature of the ORSs.Intravenous fluid (mean) administered to 149 study children was 103 mL/kg (95% confidence interval [CI] 96–109), and all were rehydrated within 6 hours. None of them developed overhydration or heart failure. During the first 24 hours, stool output (31%; 95% CI 14%–42%; P = 0.004) and the ORS intake (26%; 95% CI 12%–37%; P = 0.002) of children receiving rice-ORS were significantly less compared with children receiving glucose-ORS. The mean duration of diarrhoea in all children (66 hours; 95% CI 62–71), and time to attain 80% of median weight/length (7.15 ± 2.81 days) were not different.Dehydration in severely malnourished children can safely be corrected within 6 hours. All study ORSs were equally efficient in correcting dehydration. Rice-ORS significantly reduced the stool output and ORS intake, confirming previous reports.