How Does Oral Re-Hydration Work and Why Is It Important?

What Is Oral Rehydration?

Oral rehydration therapy (ORT), also known as oral rehydration solution or oral rehydration salts (ORS) is a strategy for the prevention and treatment of dehydration which can occur from diarrhoea, heat exposure, and some forms of infection. It is an essential component of first aid and basic emergency medical care.

This blog will look at how ORT works and why it is important.

ORT is a simple, low-cost therapy that has saved millions of lives. It is an essential part of diarrheal disease management, along with access to clean water and proper sanitation. ORS Powder is an Oral Rehydration Solution. It is a water-soluble combination of electrolytes and carbohydrates. The oral rehydration solution has the right mix of salts and sugar required for the body to heal. When you experience dehydration due to diarrhoea, gastroenteritis or vomiting, they are used to restore the salts and water that your body loses. ORS powder is easily available everywhere in a variety of flavours. In any case, if oral rehydration drinks are not available, homemade salt and sugar combinations can be used as first aid.

How ORS Works

In a normal healthy intestine, there is a continuous exchange of water through the intestinal wall. Every 24 hours, up to 20 litres of water is secreted and very nearly as much is reabsorbed. This mechanism allows the absorption into the bloodstream of soluble metabolites from digested food. Dehydration can cause our body to rapidly evacuate essential fluids. It can be caused by cholera or diarrhoea diseases and further lead to chronic dehydration and eventually death.

Oral Rehydration Salts are composed of sugars and salts which help to slow the evacuation of fluids, allowing for the absorption of electrolytes in the intestines.

Importance of ORS

ORS is a highly cost-effective solution when compared to traditional IV therapy. It costs just a few rupees and is much easier to deploy in major humanitarian crises. Instead of going to a hospital for IV treatment, which may already be difficult for patients in developing  countries, ORS can be formulated and administered at home as soon as symptoms appear so rehydration can begin right away. Finally, ORS is non-invasive, leading to zero infection and does not require guidance to administer.

World over, many children face severe malnourishment. Infections like cholera and diarrhoea can lead to severe dehydration and risk of life. Malnourished children should be rehydrated slowly. The WHO recommends 10 ml of ORS per kilogram body weight for each of the first two hours and then continuing at this same rate or slower based on the child’s thirst and ongoing stool losses.

Important points to remember

  • One should not use oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhoea for longer than 2–3 days unless advised by a doctor.
  • While preparing the oral rehydration salts, just use water, do not use milk or juice, and never add extra sugar or salt. Oral rehydration salts have the ideal balance of sugar and salts to aid the body.
  • Use the correct amount of water to make up the mixture, as too much or too little can cause an imbalance in the salts in the body.
  • Ideally one should drink 3 litres of ORS per day until they feel better. If you’re vomiting continue to drink the ORS, so the body will retain some of the fluids and minerals you
    require even in the symptoms of vomiting continues.

Here’s how one can prepare an instant ORS solution.

  1. To prepare the solution first, wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Ensure clean drinking or boiled water (after cooled) to prepare the solution.
  3. The recommended mix is – Six (6) level teaspoons of sugar and Half (1/2) level teaspoon of salt or 1 packet of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) 20.5 grams in a 1 litre of water.
  4. Stir the mixture well till all the contents dissolve.

ORS is a simple solution which can be a lifesaver in case of severe dehydration. It is an easily available, cost-effective and efficient way of treating dehydration symptoms.

Read more about ORS and its critical role in Oral Rehydration Therapy. Understand how this simple solution can be a lifesaver in cases of severe dehydration.

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