10.2.1 The appetite test
A severely malnourished child who has complications should be referred for in-patient care.
Appetite is a very important indicator of the clinical situation of a child who may have malnutrition. A poor appetite means that the child has a serious problem and will need to be referred for inpatient care. Remember that a child who has complications does not need to be given the appetite test and should be referred for in-patient care.
The appetite test: steps to follow
- The appetite test should be conducted in a separate quiet area.
- Explain to the caregiver the purpose of the appetite test and how it will be carried out.
- The caregiver should wash their hands.
- The caregiver should sit comfortably with the child on their lap and should either offer the ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) from the packet or put a small amount on his finger and give it to the child.
- The caregiver should offer the child the RUTF gently, encouraging the child all the time. If the child refuses then the caregiver should continue to quietly encourage the child and take time over the test. The test usually takes a short time but may take up to thirty minutes. The child must not be forced to take the RUTF.
- The child needs to be offered plenty of water to drink from a cup as he is taking the RUTF.