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World ORS Day: How ORS Helps In Dehydration And Diarrhea

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July 29th is observed as World ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts) Day every year. The theme for 2019 is “The Amrut in Dehydration” which is to shed light on the significance of ORS in the prevention of dehydration in kids suffering from diarrhea.

When I was growing up, I clearly remember there were commercials on TV which showed kids crying due to diarrhea and an old lady would turn up and tell the mother to give “ORS” to the kid. So it was on TV that I actually got to know about ORS and its importance to treat dehydration caused by diarrhea. 

The second I got a clear idea was when one of my cousins had diarrhea and my Mom advised my aunt to give him sugar and salt solution (well, only later I got to know that this is the homemade ORS) to prevent water and salt loss from the body.

Oral rehydration solution or salt (ORS) is rightly called as “The Amrut in Dehydration” because is is one of the severe health complications caused by diarrhea in kids below 5 years of age. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in kids under the age of 5 all over the world[1]. It is the third leading cause of childhood deaths in India and accounts for 13% of all deaths/year in children under 5 years of age[2]. Globally, it is estimated that diarrhea affects nearly 1.7 billion kids every year and around 5,25,000 children under five years of age die every year[1]. 

Diarrhea is mostly caused due to poor hygiene and sanitation but the serious complications are resulted due to severe dehydration seen in diarrhea. In fact, most kids who die due to diarrhea die because of severe dehydration and fluid loss. Dehydration caused by diarrhea can be prevented and effectively treated by giving ORS. Here’s more on everything you need to know about ORS and its role in dehydration and diarrhea.

What Is Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS)?

In simple terms, ORS is nothing but a mixture of salts and sugar. When diarrhea occurs, water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, bicarbonate, etc.) are lost from the body through the body. If the fluid and electrolyte balance in the body is not maintained by replacing the lost salts and water, dehydration occurs. To prevent dehydration, ORS is recommended[3]. The salt and sugar mixture in ORS stimulates water and electrolyte absorption from the gut thereby aiding in the replacement of the lost salts in case of diarrhea and vomiting[4]. 

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How To Make ORS?

ORS is commercially available in the form of sachets and solutions. If ORS packets are not available, you can make it simply at home using common ingredients available in the kitchen. 

For making ORS using a commercial sachet, all you have to do is buy a pack and follow the instructions mentioned on the pack carefully. Here are a few steps you need to follow while

– Take a glass and empty the contents of the ORS packet into a glass. 

– Now add filtered water (or boiled water which is cooled down) in the glass. Check the pack to know the amount of water to be used.

– Stir with the help of a spoon so as to mix all the ingredients properly. 

You can even make ORS at home to restore salt and sugar balance in the body. 

– Take a cup (200 ml) of the clean water. Make sure the water is boiled and cooled down/filtered or bottled water. Do not use tap water as it carries a high risk of contamination which in turn can worsen the condition.

– To this, add a teaspoon (5 gms) of sugar and a pinch of salt.

– Stir to mix all the ingredients properly and ensure the sugar is dissolved completely.

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Tips To Keep In Mind When Taking ORS

Although it might seem simple to take ORS for diarrhea and dehydration, there are a few simple tips you need to keep in mind to reap its benefits. These include:

– Adults can drink the solution directly from a glass but for kids, use a spoon or a cup to feed. It is advised to not use a bottle to feed a kid. 

– Do not use milk, soup, fruit juices, etc instead of water to mix the contents. Also, avoid adding extra sugar or salt to the solution. 

– When making ORS at home, make sure you add the right amounts of salt and sugar as adding these in excess can worsen the condition.

– It is always advised to make a fresh drink every time and throw away the solution (if there is any unfinished drink). This is because keeping the drink uncovered or using the drink for more than 24 hours can up the risk of bacterial infections.

ORS is considered to be a safe and most effective treatment for diarrhea (both in kids and adults)[3]. However, if the condition is worsening or if the symptoms still persist it is best to consult your doctor for a detailed diagnosis and treatment. 

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)

Recommended Reads:

Top 7 Home Remedies For Dehydration

10 Tips to Prevent Dehydration in Diarrhea

References:

1. Key Facts. Diarrhoeal disease. The World Health Organization (WHO).

2. Lakshminarayanan S, Jayalakshmy R. Diarrheal diseases among children in India: Current scenario and future perspectives. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2015 Jan-Jun;6(1):24-8.

3. Munos MK, Walker CL, Black RE. The effect of oral rehydration solution and recommended home fluids on diarrhoea mortality. Int J Epidemiol. 2010 Apr;39 Suppl 1:i75-87.

4. Suh JS, Hahn WH, Cho BS. Recent Advances of Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT). Electrolyte Blood Press. 2010 Dec;8(2):82-6.

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