Health experts suggest ORS over sugary drinks for combatting dehydration & diarrhoea - Hindustan Times
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Health experts suggest ORS over sugary drinks for combatting dehydration & diarrhoea

By, Chandigarh
Jun 11, 2024 08:44 AM IST

ORS is a mix of sugar and salts. When dissolved it in water, the solution is quickly absorbed in the small intestine, even during severe diarrhoea; This helps replace the lost water and salts

Health experts advise using only the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) to combat dehydration, instead of sugary drinks. Amid severe heatwaves and scorching temperature, heat-related illnesses are on the rise. Doctors stress upon the importance of the safe use of ORS, especially as diarrhoea poses a serious risk to children’s lives during the hot season.

Homemade drinks like ‘nimbu pani’ with sugar and salt, plain water, and milk are also good for hydration. However, sugar-loaded liquids, like cold drinks, should be avoided. (HT file photo for representation)
Homemade drinks like ‘nimbu pani’ with sugar and salt, plain water, and milk are also good for hydration. However, sugar-loaded liquids, like cold drinks, should be avoided. (HT file photo for representation)

Dehydration, especially among children, is a major concern, with diarrhoea being the third leading cause of death in the country.

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ORS is a mix of sugar and salts. When dissolved it in water, the solution is quickly absorbed in the small intestine, even during severe diarrhoea. This helps replace the lost water and salts.

Despite it being a crucial medicine for treating dehydration, especially in children with diarrhoea, only about 60.6% of such children actually receive it, according to recent data of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5). This shows the need for more awareness and its proper use.

Dr Suresh Kumar Angurana, department of paediatrics, Advanced Paediatric Centre, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), said, “It is crucial to choose ORS recommended by the WHO to combat acute diarrhoea and dehydration. It is important to understand the difference between the WHO recommended ORS solution and sugary/energy/electrolyte drinks.”

“These sugary drinks lack the precise glucose, sodium, and potassium content, which is essential for prevention and treatment of dehydration. Thus, using ORS is vital for prevention and treatment of dehydration,” he added.

“With use of such sugary drinks, diarrhoea can further increase. ORS is the ideal solution for children, consumed orally. If there is severe dehydration and patient can’t consume ORS, we give them fluids,” the doctor said.

Other options to counter dehydration

Dr Angurana advised that besides using ORS, homemade drinks like ‘nimbu pani’ with sugar and salt, plain water, and milk are good for hydration. However, sugary-loaded liquids, like cold drinks, should be avoided.

Some misconceptions about ORS

The doctor emphasised that the correct way to prepare ORS is to mix one packet in one litre of plain water. Parents often make mistakes by adding too little ORS to too little water, which is not effective. Sometimes, they give only cold drinks or plain water, which lack essential electrolytes and glucose. Additionally, some mothers stop breastfeeding, mistakenly believing it to cause dehydration.

Dr Vikram Bedi, MBBS, MD (paediatrics) and consultant at Bedi Hospital, emphasised the importance of ORS in treating diarrhoea in young children.

As a member of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), he stated, “Diarrhoea is a battle against dehydration, and ORS is our weapon. ORS is a simple yet effective solution that restores essential components, aiding quicker recovery for children aged under five.”

Sharanjit Kaur, 34, mother of a four-year-old, shared, “During summer vacations, my daughter got dehydrated and had diarrhoea while playing in sun. I gave her ORS in one litre of boiled water regularly, and she recovered.”

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