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Oral Rehydration Solution

Updated on 30 September 2022

The human body is chemically made up of, mainly water and organic compounds that comprise lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids. Water is found in extracellular fluids of our body (the blood plasma, the lymph and the interstitial fluid) and the cells themselves. About 60% of the human adult body comprises water. It is the main constituent of cells, tissues and organs and is vital for life.  

Water and our body: Helps keep the body`s normal temperature, lubricates and cushions joints, and protects the spinal column and sensitive tissues. It also helps eliminate the body`s waste through urination, perspiration and bowel movements. Water serves as a vital nutrient to the life of every cell and regulates our internal body temperature by sweating and respiration.

Dehydration: Our body relies on water to perform basic functions. Sometimes, for various reasons, the body loses more fluid than what is consumed and hence gets dehydrated. It could be due to diarrhoea, vomiting, excessive sweating, workout or low water intake.  So, when the body is dehydrated, bodily functions take a toll.

What If We Ignore Dehydration?

Since the body relies on water for basic bodily functions, our body needs to be rehydrated. If our body is not treated for dehydration, it could lead to major complications. In such cases, oral rehydration therapy is given to that person as a trusted Dehydration Cure. The person is given ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) to replenish his body`s fluid levels. ORS is usually given to treat moderate dehydration due to diarrhoea, vomiting or other conditions.

ORS contains a specific amount of glucose and electrolytes (potassium and sodium). These Oral Rehydration Solution components maximise fluid absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. This tract relies on sodium-glucose cotransporters, which help move substances across membranes. Sodium and glucose paired together help in the proper absorption of fluids in the body.  

It is also very safe for children. It is normally used to treat diarrhoea-related dehydration in children. Compared to adults, children are more likely to experience dehydration due to diarrhoea, as they have a higher metabolic rate, meaning they lose body fluids quickly.  Excessive sweating and low water intake can further increase the risk of dehydration in children as they cannot recognise thirst and do not hydrate themselves.

Electrolytes: Properly hydrating our body means keeping our electrolyte levels at an optimal level. Electrolytes help our body in balancing our body in various ways – maintain water levels, move the nutrients into appropriate cells, maintain PH levels, and ensure that our body parts work the way they should.

Uses and Benefits of ORS:

ORS solution helps in restoring the body`s fluid level. The solution has to be prepared or used correctly. ORS is a liquid solution prepared for oral consumption and can be prepared at home.  Over-the-counter or prescription ORS is a safer choice. 
It is available in powder form in sachets and the preparation is quite easy. There are many types of ORS available like Low osmolarity ORS, citrate-based, and rice-based ORS powder that easily dissolves in water and is ready for consumption. 

New WHO recommended ORS formula consists of NaCl 2.6 gm, KCl-1.5 gm, Trisod.citrate-2.9 gm and glucose 13.5 gm. This has to be dissolved in 1-liter boiled water and the osmolarity of this solution is 245 mosm/liter.

Preparation at Home

In emergency situations, one can prepare ORS at home as follows,

  • 1-litre clean drinking water boiled and cooled 5 cupfuls (1 cup -200 ml)
  •  6 level teaspoons of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

Stir the sugar and salt in the water till fully dissolved.  Now this solution can be used as ORS.

The rough estimate of replacement for older children and adult is weight in kg X 75 ml in the first four hours. Healthy adults can rehydrate themselves by drinking water, clear soup, juice, sports drinks and tea.

A Word of Caution

ORS should be used with caution if the person,

  • Has kidney disorder
  • Has diabetes
  • Has heart disease
  • Is taking heart disease or blood pressure medications.
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