Oral rehydration salts: in which cases should this medicine be used?

Oral rehydration salts: in which cases should this medicine be used?

Oral rehydration salts are widely used pharmaceuticals. Through their name, it seems easy to guess their usefulness. However, it is not that simple. It is therefore important to be well informed on the subject to avoid making regrettable mistakes.

Oral rehydration salts: what are they?

To better understand the use of oral rehydration salts (ORS), it is important to know what they mean. ORS are compositions containing electrolytes (usually sodium, potassium and chlorine).

Electrolytes are necessary elements to maintain the amount of minerals in the body. They are also essential factors in the absorption of water , glucose (sugar) and citrates . These prevent the acidification of the blood.

ORS is also known as oral rehydration solutions or ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution). Usually marketed in powder form , they are mixed with a certain amount of water before they are set.

Oral rehydration salts: what are the indications?

Oral rehydration salts are primarily recommended to prevent or treat dehydration. However, it is not recommended to take it without consulting your doctor or pharmacist. The indications which will be detailed below should therefore lead you to your doctor/pharmacist. Only he can advise you whether or not to take this medication.

Very often, we tend to equate intense thirst or heavy sweating with dehydration, but this view of things is not always correct. Dehydration can manifest as intense thirst and excessive sweating can lead to dehydration. But it’s not always the case.

Dehydration is a physiological state due to a significant loss of water and electrolytes (ions necessary for the proper functioning of the human body). Knowing that the body is made up of approximately 60% water, one can easily understand the seriousness of untreated dehydration.

For example, dehydration can be caused by malnutrition, severe diarrhea, severe vomiting, heatstroke, excessive alcohol intake and the intake of diuretics (substances causing a more or less significant increase in the volume of urine).

However, oral rehydration salts are not used in all cases. This is also why it is essential to consult a qualified health professional before using this medication.

Anyone can find themselves in a situation of dehydration. However, it is generally more dangerous when it affects the elderly or children (especially infants).

It is important to know that an anomaly in the amount of electrolytes and water can cause extremely serious pathologies, even death. Dehydration should never be taken lightly.

Generally, it can manifest itself by:

  • the absence of tears;
  • a decrease in the need to urinate;
  • sunken fontanel (in infants);
  • dryness of the tongue, lips and skin, etc.

However, you should not wait for these signs to appear before consulting a doctor. As soon as you come across any of the potential causes of dehydration, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. This is all the more important if it is a child or an elderly person.

As mentioned above, oral rehydration solutions are also used to prevent dehydration. Your doctor may therefore find it useful to prevent the occurrence of this physiological condition.

Among the various existing causes of dehydration, severe diarrhea, vomiting and heat stroke are those for which oral rehydration solutions are most commonly used. So we tell you a little more about them.

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Oral rehydration salts: use in case of severe diarrhea

Diarrhea is a sign that is defined by an increase in the frequency, fluidity and volume of stools. It may be that only one or two of these parameters are affected. Generally, the normal frequency of bowel movements varies from 3 times/day to 3 times/week, from one person to another. What is diarrhea in one person may therefore not be diarrhea in someone else.

Texture-wise, diarrhea often manifests as loose or watery stools. This parameter is almost always accompanied by an increase in frequency and vice versa, but it may not be.

Normally, only a small amount of body fluid (water and electrolytes) entering the intestines is passed through the stool. The rest is then recovered by the body. But in case of diarrhea, recovery is hampered and the amount eliminated is therefore no longer controlled, hence dehydration.

Regardless of the age of the person suffering from profuse diarrhea, consulting a doctor is a necessity. Even if it is necessary to fight dehydration, it is not enough. It is also imperative to know the cause to get rid of it.

Oral rehydration solutions are most commonly used in the elderly and infants. They make it possible to compensate for the losses of water and mineral salts caused by diarrhea. When taken early, they prevent dehydration. Otherwise, they process it. The dose to take will depend on the recommendations of your doctor or pharmacist.

However, in general, the solutions (ORS diluted in water) should be drunk in small quantities, at regular and short intervals. For adults, the recommended dose often varies between 30 and 80 ml (2 and 6 tablespoons) every 30-60 minutes.

For children , the dose is determined by weight, at the rate of 1 ml/kg every 5 minutes for 4 hours. With children, especially infants, special care must be taken. Needless to say, they are very fragile beings. Also, they may not be cooperative when administering the solution. So ask your doctor for advice.

Oral rehydration salts: use in case of heatstroke

Naturally, the organism is equipped with a thermoregulation system allowing it to maintain its temperature around 37°C. In the event of excessive heat, this system triggers various mechanisms (perspiration for example) to prevent this temperature from reaching an abnormal value.

Anyone can be prone to heat stroke, but the situation is more alarming in children and the elderly. This is explained by the fact that their thermoregulation system is less efficient. They are therefore more exposed than other age groups in the event of strong heat.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency . You should therefore not waste a single second in the presence of the following signs: very high temperature (from 40°C), absence of perspiration, red and very hot skin, confusion, loss of coordination, dizziness or fainting. Contact emergency services immediately and follow their instructions.

Some warning signs may appear during periods of high heat. These include severe thirst, muscle cramps, skin rashes, profuse sweating, rapid breathing and pulse, nausea or vomiting, headache, and dark, less abundant urine. Contacting the emergency room at this time allows you to be a step ahead. Above all, don’t wait for the situation to get worse.

Regarding the use of oral rehydration salts in the case of heat stroke , again, everything depends on the recommendations of your doctor or pharmacist. You should also contact him as soon as the first signs appear.

Oral rehydration salts: use in case of vomiting

When they are small, vomiting does not suggest a risk of dehydration. But when they become abundant, especially in children and the elderly, more attention should be paid to them. When they are associated with a fever , it is important not to take the risk of neglecting them.

In the case of an infant, contact your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room. With adults (except the elderly), the risk is lower. However, drinking a sip of water or light tea occasionally can help control the situation. ORS is also helpful, but always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

Whatever the age of the sick person, the profuse and persistent vomiting constitutes a sufficient reason to consult. Rehydrating the body is good, but it is also crucial to determine the cause of vomiting to put an end to it once and for all.

Oral rehydration salts: what are the contraindications?

There are no general contraindications to taking ORS. Of course, it is not advisable to take it when you have no indication of it. However, the instructions for each oral rehydration solution mention the specific contraindications to their products.

Usually it is the appearance of side effects, an allergy to substances present in the drug, etc. So be sure to read the package leaflet before administering this medication to anyone.

In addition, your doctor or pharmacist will probably ask you questions to ensure that you have no contraindications to the product. However, it costs you nothing to be more careful when reading the leaflet.

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