Oral rehydration therapy
When it is used with people who have diarrhoea it can save their lives. ORT is drinking lots of water and continuing to eat. Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and sugar/salt/water solutions (SSS) are also a good way to rehydrate the body.
About 40 years ago, diarrhoea was killing about 5 million children a year. Giving suffering children lots of water to drink didn’t work because it would come out of their bodies again too soon before the body could absorb it.
Scientists working in Bangladesh and India found that adding sugar to water and salt in the right proportions allowed liquid to be absorbed by the body’s intestinal wall. So anyone with diarrhoea could replace all the water they were losing by simply drinking this solution.
UNICEF uses this method to save the lives of children all over the world by making sachets of the solution available in developing countries.
You can make Oral Rehydration Therapy solution yourself (although it is advised if you are really sick to use the pre-packaged ingredients as you are sure to get the right quantities):1. Take one litre of water.
2. Measure one level teaspoon of salt and put it in the water.
3. Measure 4 heaped teaspoons of sugar into the water.
5. Taste – it should taste like salty tears.
"If more than five people in one village have diarrhoea, then it’s an outbreak," explains Bouawane, 35, the pharmacist at Kham District Hospital in Xieng Khouang.
A story from Laos
Health workers use oral rehydration salts (ORS) to help control outbreaks. Villagers are shown exactly how to mix sachets of rehydration salts with water.
ORS is the recommended treatment for diarrhoea and is one of the most common prescriptions Bouawane deals with. UNICEF provides sachets of ORS to hospitals all over Lao PDR. However, the hospitals cannot rely on villagers coming to get it, since many villagers visit rarely, if at all.
"When hospital staff go to the villages they take it with them. They usually make three or four trips to each village every year, and will make other trips if necessary," says Bouawane, who believes that outbreaks are increasingly under control in the area. "The treatment is not complicated or expensive but it saves the lives of so many children."
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