Oral Rehydration Salts
For Children with Diarrhea

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The use of oral rehydration salts (ORS) is often recommended for children with diarrhea. In most cases, increased intake of necessary fluids like water for three or four days will naturally stop diarrhea. 

However, during this situation, the nutrients and fluids lost may lead to dehydration and more complications, especially in children. 

Because of the sensitivity of a child’s body to the loss of nutrients during these formative but critical years, it is best not to administer any type of medicine, including over-the-counter tablets and antibiotics without the prescription of a licensed health practitioner. 

Diarrhea is best treated by drinking a lot of fluids and taking oral rehydration salts mixed accurately with safe and potable water.

Under the guidance of a health practitioner, it can also be treated by taking zinc tablets or syrup for a maximum two weeks.

Specific Diarrhea Treatment

ORS is made of dry salts combined with safe and clean potable water. This aids in rehydrating the body during diarrhea. 

This is administered if children face three or more episodes of loose bowel movements within the span of 24 hours.

To complement this treatment, children of six months and above should be given 20 milligrams of zinc every day for 2 weeks. 

Children who are under six months old should be given 10 milligrams of zinc every day for 2 weeks.

Zinc for children can be found either in a syrup or tablet form and can be bought from local pharmacies and health stores.

ORS Preparation

  1. Place oral rehydration salts in a clean container, preferably sterilized. Read the packaging for specific preparation instructions. 
  2. Be sure to pour the proper quantity of safe and clean potable water in the container. Do not use any other fluid, such as soup, soft drinks, fruit juice and milk in place of water. Do not add sugar to the mixture. 
  3. Stir thoroughly and let the child drink the mixture from a clean cup, preferably sterilized. Never use a bottle for feeding. Be sure to let the child drink as much mixture as he or she can.

Children below 2 years of age must drink ¼ to ½ cup, approximately 250 mL of the ORS mixture after every loose bowel.

Children who are 2 years old and older must drink ½ to 1 cup of the ORS mixture after every loose bowel. 

If ORS is unavailable, a mixture of half a teaspoon of natural, unrefined salt, 6 teaspoons of sugar and a liter of safe and clean potable water is preferred. 

Take note of the exact amounts and stir thoroughly. Any excess of salt and sugar may be detrimental to the child, but adding a little extra water to the mixture will not be harmful.

Editor's Note about Natural ORS

Even though there are healthier solutions than the typical ORS used for treatment of diarrhea in young children, it is critical to get the correct ratio of salt, sugar and water. As the author stated, too much salt or too much sugar can be dangerous.

In any other situation, I would not be in favor of giving a child 6 teaspoons of sugar in water with salt added. 

I know that you could get the same benefits using a natural sweetener, such as honey, and adding a natural unrefined salt, such as Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt. These natural salts have 80+ minerals, including both sodium and potassium, which are both essential for rehydration.

However, I have yet to find a natural ORS recipe that is NMD or pediatrician approved for the proper ratio of sodium, potassium and glucose for people of all ages. If anyone has such a recipe, please let us know.

Since severe or prolonged diarrhea, especially in children and the elderly, is a life-threatening situation, I wouldn't mess around with ORS alternatives unless you really know what you are doing or are working with a licensed natural health practitioner.

Nancy Hearn, CNC


Diarrhoea: FactsforLife.org.

Further reading . . .

Dehydration Symptoms in Children

Water and Salt - Balanced Intake Is Essential for Hydration

Return from Oral Rehydration Salts to Dehydration Effects of Water Loss in the Human Body  

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