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Treatment - Malnutrition

Treatment for malnutrition depends on the cause and how bad the condition is.

If you have malnutrition, you may get advice you can follow at home. You may need to see a dietitian or other qualified healthcare professional at home.

In severe cases, you may need hospital treatment.

Dietary changes and supplements

A dietitian will tell you what dietary changes may help.

They may create a tailored diet plan so you get enough nutrients.

They may also suggest:

  • having a healthier, more balanced diet
  • eating 'fortified' foods that contain extra nutrients
  • snacking between meals
  • having drinks that contain lots of calories
  • getting home supermarket deliveries

If these aren’t enough, they may recommend you take supplements. Only take these if advised to by a healthcare professional.

Feeding tubes

You may not be able to eat what you need. For example, if you have a problem swallowing. If you do, you will need another way to get nutrients.

This may involve a:

  • tube that goes down the nose, into the stomach - called a nasogastric tube
  • tube that goes through the skin of the tummy, into the stomach or gut
  • nutrient solution that goes into the blood through a tube in a vein - called a parenteral nutrition

These treatments usually begin in hospital. But they can continue at home if the person is well enough.

Care and support services

Some people need extra care to help them cope with other issues such as limited mobility.

This may include:

  • home care visitors who can shop for food or cook for people
  • an occupational therapist who can assess daily activities and find solutions
  • a 'meals on wheels' or meals at home service
  • a speech and language therapist who can teach exercises that help people swallow and give advice on foods that are easy to swallow

Treating malnutrition in children

Malnutrition in children is often caused by long-term health conditions. But this isn't the case for all children with malnutrition.

Treatment may involve:

  • dietary changes, such as eating foods high in energy and nutrients
  • support for families to manage underlying factors affecting the child's nutritional intake
  • treatment for any underlying medical conditions causing their malnutrition
  • vitamin and mineral supplements
  • high energy and protein supplements, if other treatments do not work on their own


Severely malnourished children need to be fed and rehydrated with great care. They cannot have a normal diet straight away and may need time in hospital.

Once they're well enough, they can slowly return to a normal diet.

Treatment should be tracked to make sure it's working. Weight and height will also be measured often.

If there's no improvement, a malnourished child will be referred to specialist services.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 24 March 2021
Next review due: 24 March 2024