Diarrhoea is still the second leading cause of death among children under five globally. About 1.5 million children die because of diarrhoea every year. It kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. Diarrhoea is more prevalent in developing countries due to the lack of safe drinking water and sanitation as well as poor overall health and nutritional status of those populations. Doctors state that 70% of diarrhoea deaths could be prevented with oral rehydration salt solution, which is a simple sugar-and-salt solution.
ORS Day is celebrated every year on 29th July to highlight the importance of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) as a cost-effective way of fighting against deadly diseases.
How can diarrhoea affect the body?
Diarrhoea is a very common gastrointestinal disorder which can either last for a few hours or go on for days. Diarrhoea depletes the body of water and salts that are necessary for survival. Most people who die from diarrhoea actually die from severe dehydration and fluid loss from the body.
What is ORS?
ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts) is a power-boosting mixture which helps in regaining lost electrolytes. As per the World Health Organisation, ORS has four ingredients which need to be dissolved in one litre of clean drinking water:
- Sodium chloride, which is the common salt (3.5 grams)
- Trisodium citrate, dihydrate (2.9 grams)
- Potassium chloride (1.5 grams)
- Glucose, which is sugar (20 grams)
ORS solutions are available commercially in the market but if you do not have access to these you can make one at your home.
How does ORS help with diarrhoea?
During diarrhoea, one loses all the electrolytes and minerals present in their body, leading to severe dehydration. This dehydration caused by diarrhoea is treated by giving extra fluids to the affected person at home or by providing the person with a glucose-electrolyte solution called Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) solution.
The combination of increased home fluids and the use of ORS is an effective treatment for children suffering from diarrhoea. A child is advised to consume ORS when they complain of three or more loose stools in a day.
How can you make ORS at home?
If you do not have an ORS packet at home, you can still prepare it at home with the help of some easily available products. All you need is:
- One litre of clean water (you can boil the water before using it)
- Six level teaspoons of sugar (1 teaspoon = 5 grams)
- Half a teaspoon of salt
Stir the mixture of all three ingredients until the sugar dissolves. You can consume this home-made solution to provide hydration to the body.
How much ORS should be given to children?
It is advised that a child or an adult suffering from diarrhoea must drink as much ORS as possible. A child under the age of two years would require at least one-fourth to half of a large (250 ml) cup of the ORS drink after each watery stool.
A child aged two years or above would need at least half to one large cup of the ORS drink after each watery stool.
Along with this ORS, you can also give 20 mg of zinc per day (tablet or syrup) to the children over six months of age and 10 mg per day (tablet or syrup) to the children under six months of age.
For more information, read our article on Diarrhoea.
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