When a child has diarrhea, the real danger is not the diarrhea but the loss of fluids and essential nutrients from the child’s body which causes dehydration and malnutrition. It is therefore very important for parents and caregivers to know how to make ORS at home to prevent dehydration in children. It is also important for parents and caregivers to recognize the symptoms of dehydration as young children may not be able to let parents know they are dehydrated -symptoms of dehydration are provided below.
What is ORS/ORT (Oral dehydration solution/therapy)?
ORS or ORT is a fluid replacement therapy used to prevent and treat dehydration caused by diarrhea. It is important to know that this fluid replacement therapy should be used alongside medication that has been prescribed by a certified healthcare professional at the hospital.
When do I need to use ORS/ORT?
When a child has three (3) or more watery bowel movements in a day, ORS is needed.
Where can I get ORS?
In many countries, packets of ORS (which should be mixed with water) can be gotten from healthcare centers or pharmacies. Directions would be on the packet or provided by the healthcare professional. Do not mix ORS with juices, soft drinks or milk.
What if I do not have access to get packs of ORS, can I make this at home?
Yes, ORS can be made at home but it is very important that the measurements of ingredients are followed strictly. Too much sugar can worsen the diarrhea and too much salt can cause a condition called Hypernatremia, a very harmful condition.
How do I make ORS?
Before making this solution, please wash your hands with soap and water.
To make this solution at home, you will need to mix:
- One litre (5 big cups) of clean, boiled and cooled water
- 6-level teaspoons of sugar
- ½ -level teaspoon of salt
Stir the mixture until both the salt and sugar are dissolved
How much should I give the child?
After every watery stool, ORS should be given according to the following measurements.
Children under 2 years of age: At least ¼ to ½ a cup of ORS after every watery stool.
Children above 2 years of age: At least ½ to 1 cup of ORS after every watery stool.
Give the child the ORS slowly, preferably with a teaspoon. Do not use a bottle, as it is difficult to clean. If the child vomits, wait 10 minutes then try again.
Diarrhea usually stops in three or four days. If it does not stop, consult a certified health care professional.
However, the ORT should be replaced (a new one should be made) after every 24 hours until the diarrhea stops. Zinc tables should be administered alongside the ORS for the next ten (10) days, once a day.
What are the symptoms of dehydration in children?
- Dry mouth/tongue
- Sunken spot at the top of the skull
- Sunken eyes or cheeks
- No tears when crying
- Decreased number of wet diapers
- Dark yellow urination
- Poor skin elasticity
Read more about cholera here
Rehydration Project, 2014
Mayo Clinic, 2019