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Oral Rehydration Therapy: How Does It Work?

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Oral Rehydration Therapy: How Does It Work?

What is ORT?

Oral Rehydration Therapy is a process of replenishing fluids and electrolytes in the body, lost due to chronic diarrhea and vomiting. It is an effective treatment to prevent and cure dehydration. ORT involves drinking a solution of sugar and salts especially consisting of sodium and potassium. Patients are given this solution through a nasogastric tube. Moreover, patients are recommended to include Zinc in their supplement routinely.

How to prepare an ORS solution?

A basic ORS can be prepared using the Ors Powder. Additionally, if the packets are not available, you can prepare ORS on your own using a molar ratio of sugar to salt i.e 1:1, and make sure that it won’t be hyperosmolar. The main element for making an oral rehydration solution is clear water. A good Rehydration Solution should be taken immediately as rehydration takes precedence.

In any case, if oral rehydration salts packets are not available or you are unable to prepare ORS solution at home, WHO recommends home made gruels, soups, etc, can be suitable options as Rehydrating Solutions to rehydrate your body. Sports drinks are not considered optimal oral rehydration solutions, but you can use them if the optimal choices are not available.

How does Oral Rehydration Therapy ORT work?

ORT helps replace the lost fluids and essential salts to prevent or treat dehydration. The glucose in the ORS solution enables the intestine to absorb the fluid and salts more effectively. It has been observed that ORT is an effective treatment to relieve acute watery diarrhea. In severe cases, intravenous drip therapy is recommended.

ORT comprises two stages of treatment such as:

Rehydration phase:

An ORS solution mainly comprises water and electrolytes to replenish the loss of fluids. The process may take three to four hours.

Maintenance phase:

This stage consists of both replenishment of fluids and electrolytes along with a sufficient diet.

During both the stages of the treatment fluid losses from vomiting and diarrhea replenishment is an ongoing process. After the correction of dehydration, patients are recommended to intake an age-appropriate, unrestricted diet. If the patient is an infant and depends on breastfed, breastfeeding should be continued during both phases including Rehydration and maintenance phase as well. Formula-fed infants should sustain their regular formula instantly upon rehydration.

How to Administer Oral Rehydration Therapy?

ORS is given in frequent, small amounts of solutions whether by spoon or syringe. Generally, a Nasogastric tube is used in the child who reduces to drink. An NG (Nasogastric) lets ORS administer at a slow and steady rate for patients with persistent vomiting. For those with vomiting, the majority can be rehydrated successfully with oral fluids if restricted quantities of ORS (5 mL) are given every 5 minutes, with a progressive increase in the amount utilized.


Mild to moderate dehydration:

Rehydration phase: The dosage is 50-100 ml/kg over three to four hours.

During both stages, ongoing losses from diarrhea and vomiting are replaced with ORS. If the losses can be known accurately, 1 mL of ORS should be given for each gram of diarrheal stool. Other than that, 10 mL/kg of body weight of ORS should be given for each watery or loose stool, and 2 mL/kg of body weight for every episode of emesis. You can also use Electrolyte Drink Powder to replenish electrolytes.