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Oral Rehydration Therapy - Causes, Signs and Prevention

Published on May 09, 2022 and last reviewed on May 10, 2022   -  6 min read


Oral rehydration therapy is considered as the standard and first line treatment for dehydration. To learn about oral rehydration therapy read the article below.



Water constitutes about half of our human body, and it is needed for our cell system to function efficiently. When the body loses more amount of fluids than the amount it takes in, then it is a condition called dehydration. Dehydration is one common condition that is seen in cases of diarrhea, cholera and among travelers.

What Is Dehydration?

Dehydration is a condition when a person does not take enough fluids or loses more amount of fluid than he takes in. When your body is deficient in fluids, then the body organs fail to function properly, which can result in some severe complications. Dehydration can be mild or severe. When dehydration is mild, you can get it treated at home only, but when it gets severe, it can even lead to shock or any emergency condition. Usually, your body gets dehydrated when it loses water and when it is not replaced.

What Causes Dehydration?

The common causes of dehydration are not taking sufficient amounts of water or losing more water, or a combination of both factors.

The other causes of dehydration are:

These are some of the causes of dehydration.

What Are the Signs of Dehydration?

The signs and symptoms of dehydration are:

Signs of Dehydration

- Lethargy.

- Dry mouth.

- Dry skin.

- Constipation.

- Dizziness.

- Headache.

- Skin pinch reverts slowly.

Along with these signs, there are also some severe signs of dehydration.

They are:

How to Treat Dehydration?

The treatment for dehydration includes

Oral Rehydration Therapy:

Oral rehydration therapy is giving fluid by mouth in order to treat dehydration. Oral rehydration therapy has substantially reduced the number of deaths from dehydration due to diarrhea or cholera. Cholera can cause dehydration that can even lead to death if left untreated. With timely and proper treatment, more than 99 % of cholera patients can survive. So rehydration therapy is very important.

How to Give Oral Rehydration?

How Does Oral Rehydration Therapy Work?

There are various diseases that cause damage to the intestine. In our human body, normally water is absorbed and secreted slowly, and it follows the movement of salts through a process called osmosis. In case of diarrhea, sodium is secreted along with water, and the large intestine is usually secreting rather than absorbing water. So there is loss of water and electrolytes, resulting in dehydration. Hence electrolyte losses also need to be compensated.

Oral rehydration can be achieved by drinking frequent amounts of oral rehydration solutions. It is very important to rehydrate with solutions containing electrolytes, particularly sodium and potassium. Oral rehydration does not prevent diarrhea, rather it keeps the body hydrated until diarrhea stops.

What Is the Composition of Oral Rehydration Solutions?

The typical composition of oral rehydration solution contains a mixture of

WHO/UNICEF oral rehydration solution contains:

oral rehydration solution

Where to Get the Oral Rehydration Solution?

You can get these oral rehydration solutions from the medical stores in

The premixed liquid oral rehydration solutions contain a balanced amount of fluids, salts, and glucose. In the case of powder, if it is not mixed with the specified amount of water, then the resulting oral rehydration solution can be either too concentrated or too diluted, leaving the solution ineffective. Whatever you use, whether you use a premixed bottle or packaged powder, it has to be taken according to the dosage directions given on the package to ensure the maximum effectiveness of the oral rehydration solutions.

How to Give Oral Rehydration Solutions to Children?

Can Water Be Given to Children if ORS Is Not Available at Home?

Do not just give water, as drinking water alone can result in low salt and sugar levels. You also need to avoid any drinks that are rich in sugar content as it can worsen the symptoms. Do not give any sports drinks or any undiluted drinks.

When Is It Better to Consult a Doctor for Dehydration?

You can seek medical consultation from your doctor if in case your child,

Diarrhea is a major cause of death among children. And oral rehydration therapy has proven to fight against diarrhea.

Can Breastfeeding Be Continued In Children on Oral Rehydration Solutions?

Children with dehydration should be continued with breastfeeding along with oral rehydration solutions.

How to Prepare Oral Rehydration Solution at Home?

Homemade oral rehydration solutions are not recommended to treat dehydration. These homemade rehydration solutions can only be used to prevent or delay the onset of dehydration on the way to seeking medical consultation when commercial oral rehydration solutions are not available. It consists of one liter of freshwater mixed with,

Homemade rehydration solutions are usually discouraged as there are serious errors in the formulation. Once prepared, the oral rehydration solutions should be consumed or discarded within 12 hours if it is kept at room temperatures or 24 hours if refrigerated.

What Happens if Dehydration Is Left Untreated?

If dehydration is left untreated, it can even lead to life-threatening complications like:

How to Prevent Dehydration?


Oral rehydration therapy is a cheap, easily available, and effective treatment. Rapid rehydration solutions can save many lives. Many patients can be rehydrated completely with the oral rehydration solution itself. It is important to note the early signs of dehydration and to respond quickly. The only point in treating dehydration is to replace fluids and restore the body fluids to normal levels.

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Last reviewed at:
10 May 2022  -  6 min read




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