Dehydration and Importance of Oral Rehydration Salts

by | Jul 22, 2016 | Health & Fitness


Dehydration is a condition where free water loss exceeds free water intake. Around 2/3rd of the human body is composed of water, and helps in various functions such as lubrication of the joints and eyes,digestion, flushing out of wastes and toxins, and maintaining the balance of minerals (salts and sugar) in our body. Dehydration may occur due to exercise or diseases, high environmental temperature, not drinking enough fluids, persistent vomiting and diarrhea, sweating due to fever etc.

Causes for Dehydration

There are different conditions which may cause dehydration. Some of them are as follows:

  • Gastrointestinal: Diarrhea and vomiting due to gastroenteritis, cholera, yellow fever or infection of the gastrointestinal tract leads to dehydration as well as an electrolyte imbalance.
  • Sweating:Excessive sweating due to vigorous exercise, sports, fever, heavy manual work, climatic conditions etc. results in fluid loss and dehydration.
  • Alcohol intake: Alcohol is a diuretic and stimulates urination resulting in dehydration.
  • Diabetes: In diabetes, kidney removes extra glucose along with water, which in turn may result into dehydration.
  • Blood loss: Excessive loss of blood can also result in dehydration.

People can tolerate 3-4%decrease in total body water without any difficulty. But 5-8% decrease can cause fatigue and dizziness and above 8% can prove to be dangerous.

Signs and Symptoms

The early signs of dehydration include feeling thirsty and lightheaded, dry mouth,tiredness,having dark colored face, strong smell in urine, passing urine less often than usual etc.

Remedies and Treatments

  • Drink plenty of fluids such as water, squash or fruit juice and avoid caffeinated beverages and fizzy drinks.
  • In illnesses such as vomiting or diarrhea, it is difficult to maintain optimum water level in our body. In such cases, it is better to have small sips of water or other fluids.
  • Infants and children who are dehydrated or having diarrhea should be given oral rehydrated salts (ORS)as recommended by World Health Organization (WHO) instead of water.This is because water can dilute the already low levels of electrolytes and minerals in the body. ORS is a mixture of electrolytes and sugars mainly given to restore imbalance of body fluids. It is very helpful in adults suffering from dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Importance of ORS

  • ORS is a special combination of dry salts (electrolytes) that are mixed with water. It can help to replace the fluids lost due to diarrhea and vomiting.
  • ORS is important because it helps to rehydrate the body with essential electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium.
  • In severe case of dehydration, when fainting or unconsciousness occurs, ORS can be given through intravenous injections for replenishment of necessary electrolytes and water.
  • In mild dehydration, an oral rehydration can be given which is less painful, and less expensive as compared to ORS given through intravenous route.
  • ORS can be prepared at home by simply mixing 6 level teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 level teaspoon of salt in 1 liter of clean water.
  • ORS is the best treatment option for dehydration

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