Any child or adult that is experiencing diarrhea, no matter the cause, can easily become dehydrated. The fluid lost with each liquid bowel movement during a bout of diarrhea can be quite significant. It is essential that individuals with diarrhea replace their fluid losses. One effective way of replacing fluid lost during diarrhea is with an oral rehydration solution.
An oral rehydration solution, or ORS, can be purchased or made at home. Examples of oral rehydration solutions that are available in drug stores and grocery stores include Pedialyte, Rehydralyte, Ricelyte or the oral rehydration solution used by the World Health Organization called WHO-ORS.
Oral rehydration solutions for diarrhea can be easily made at home. Homemade ORS is as effective as store bought ORS. However, it is absolutely essential that the recipe for homemade oral rehydration solution is followed correctly. One of the most common reasons for treatment failure when using a homemade oral rehydration solution is that the solution was made incorrectly.
Mistakenly adding too much of the sugar component of an oral rehydration solution made at home can actually worsen the diarrhea. The sugar in the intestinal contents can cause an osmotic diarrhea by drawing water into the lumen of the bowel. Likewise, excess rehydration salts in a homemade oral rehydration solution can result in electrolyte abnormalities such as hypernatremia (high serum sodium levels) if the child or adult is not taking in adequate free water.
The following recipe for homemade oral rehydration solution is one of the most complete versions of ORS that can be concocted at home in order to maintain the fluid status of individuals with diarrhea. Simpler recipes are available but they often lack key components. For example, mixing water, sugar and table salt (NaCl) in the correct proportions will make an ORS but this solution lacks the crucial electrolyte potassium (K+).
Recipe for home made oral rehydration solution:
Gather the following items: table salt (sea salt is even better), baking soda, sugar, orange juice (100% juice), water (filtered is preferred), large container that can measure 1 liter of fluid.
Measure one half teaspoon (1/2 tsp) of salt into the container. Add one teaspoon (1 tsp) of baking soda (NOT baking powder!). Add eight teaspoons (8 tsp) of sugar. Measure in eight ounces (8 oz) of orange juice. Add water up to the one liter (1 L) mark to dilute the above ingredients. Stir or swirl to combine.
Once the above oral rehydration solution has been made it should be administered to the individual with diarrhea as a means to prevent dehydration. It is often necessary to take very small sips of the ORS frequently, rather than attempting to imbibe a full glass of this concoction. It is not necessary to restrict water as long as the child or adult with diarrhea is drinking the oral rehydration solution as well. As always, individuals should contact their health care provider with any concerns or questions regarding treatment of adults or children with diarrhea.
Source: Lin G. “The Washington Manual: Outpatient Medicine Survival Guide”. LW&W, 2003.