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World ORS Day – ORS Prevents and Treats Dehydration Effectively

World ORS Day – ORS Prevents and Treats Dehydration Effectively

Written by Dr. Lakshmi Venkataraman, MD
Medically Reviewed by 
The Medindia Medical Review Team on July 29, 2019 at 5:35 PM
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  • World ORS (oral rehydration salt) Day is observed annually on the 29th July to raise awareness about using ORS as a safe and effective measure to prevent and treat dehydration and related deaths especially in infants and children
  • Dehydration caused by diarrhea is the second most common killer disease in children under 5 years making the ORS treatment campaign all the more important in preventing these deaths
  • ORS can be bought over the counter or easily prepared at home and anyone with dehydration can take ORS. Use of ORS has brought down diarrheal dehydration related deaths by 93%

World ORS (oral rehydration salt) Day is observed on the 29th July every year. This day aims to raise awareness about using ORS, as a safe and effective measure to prevent and treat dehydration and related deaths, especially in infants and children.

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History of Oral Rehydration Salt Treatment

  • Until the 1960's intravenous rehydration therapy discovered by William Brooke O'Shaughnessy in 1831 was standard treatment for dehydration
  • Two scientists, namely Norbert Hirschhorn and Nathaniel F. Pierce, independently established in 1967-68 that patients with cholera absorb electrolytes better when given orally
  • David Nalin also showed that adults given electrolyte solution orally could avoid the need for IV rehydration in nearly 80% of cases
  • In the early 1970s, Hirschhorn established that infants and children can take oral rehydration while continuing breastfeeding, making it popular to treat dehydration deaths in infants and children
  • Campaigns to encourage and promote ORS began in the 1980s and received a major impetus when WHO and UNICEF joined the program in 2006 and promoted the campaign globally
  • The Indian Association of Pediatrics declared 29th July as World ORS Day way back in 2001

How to Raise Awareness about ORS Treatment

  • Health workers and volunteers should visit rural households and urban slums and demonstrate preparation of ORS educate women about the importance of ORS treatment in preventing diarrheal deaths in their babies
  • Primary health care centers should display prominent pictures about preparing and administering ORS to babies with diarrhea
  • Importance of sanitation and hygiene must be emphasized to persons living in crowded slums and housing
  • Print, visual media and radio programs must regularly run educational programs about ORS treatment in diarrheal illnesses

Preparing ORS Solution from Commercially Available Powder

Pour the powder in a clean container and add the correct amount of water as instructed on the sachet. Milk should not be added and no added sugar. Administer the contents to the baby from a clean cup slowly in small mouthfuls at regular intervals.

Preparing ORS Solution at Home

If ORS powder packets are not available, don't worry. Here's how you can prepare the ORS solution at home, which is equally effective. You need:
  • Clean water - 5 cups (200 ml/cup approx)
  • Salt - ½ tsp
  • Sugar - 6 teaspoons level
Mix the contents thoroughly and in the correct amounts. Too much sugar or salt can worsen diarrhea. Administer in the same manner as described above.

Fast Facts About ORS & How to Use

  • ORS came into common use in the 1970s
  • ORS is listed as one of the essential medicines by WHO
  • Use of ORS has reportedly reduced diarrheal and dehydration deaths by 93%
  • ORS can also be given to adults with dehydration
  • Prepared ORS solution can be used up to 24 hours after which it has to be made once again
  • Persons showing signs of severe dehydration should be given intravenous fluids
  • For mild dehydration, adults can drink between 250 ml- 500 ml of ORS and drink 500 ml of ORS for moderate dehydration. Take 1-2 mouthfuls at a time at regular intervals
  • For children, 100 ml is enough to treat mild to moderate dehydration
  • Children should be given one sip at a time and never more than half a cup after a loose stool
  • If diarrhea continues or dehydration worsens immediately rush to the hospital for IV (intravenous) fluids
  • Administration of zinc along with ORS can reduce the duration and severity of the diarrheal episode
  • ORS can also be used to treat burns associated dehydration until medical help is accessible

Signs of Dehydration in Infants and Children You Should Not Ignore

  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • When skin is pinched, it takes longer to go back to the original position
  • Sunken soft spot on top of the skull
  • Not passing urine or diaper is dry for over 3 hours
  • No tears when the baby cries
  • Sunken eyes, cheeks
  • Drowsy and listless
In summary, World ORS Day aims to educate about the use of ORS as a safe and effective way to treat dehydration and related deaths especially in babies and children.

References :
  1. ORS Day - (https://www.nhp.gov.in/ors-day_pg)
  2. ORS: The medical advance of the century - (https://www.unicef.org/sowc96/joral.htm)

Source: Medindia

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