Drinking Our Own ORS

(This is a reprint of a post I wrote for my Global Health Basics blog, which it turns out I have neither the time nor the technical prowess to maintain.)

In social media, they talk about eating your own dog food. In global health, I think the equivalent would be drinking our own Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS). We need to do a lot of that. It’s important to think about what we ask of people because it gives us a much clearer sense of why we get ignored. Here’s the starter list for how to drink your own ORS:

1. Drink an entire glass of ORS from a packet every time you get the runs, not the tastier homemade kind. Don’t take Imodium.

2. Boil and cool all your water before drinking it.

3. Never spend a single cent on a treatment or cure that hasn’t been proven to work. No vitamin C for a hangover, no Preparation H, no Neosporin on your cuts.

4. No antibiotics when they aren’t strictly necessary. That means nothing for your bronchitis or your child’s ear infection.

5. Use a condom every single time you have sex, even with your spouse, even if your spouse doesn’t want to.

6. Take your child to the doctor immediately if she is showing any of the IMCI warning signs, but don’t take her if she is less sick than that.

7. Breastfeed exclusively until six months, and continue breastfeeding until at least age 2. If you have to work, then express milk by hand into a jar and store it in a cool place. But never feed your child with a bottle. Use a cup and spoon.

8. Choose your food on the basis of what is cheapest and most nutritious, without regard for flavor or cultural tradition.

9. Don’t see the doctor you are most comfortable with; instead, see the doctor that your government recommends.

10. When caring for your sick child, don’t follow the advice of your mother or mother-in-law. Instead, follow advice from a government doctor you may only have met once.


(No antibiotics for her! photo credit: rabble)

Things I believe in #40 – Oral Rehydration Salts

Eight ounces of clean water. One pinch of salt. One teaspoon of sugar. Mix well. Give it to your child who has diarrhea. Save her life. It doesn’t cure diarrhea, but it’ll prevent fatal dehydration until the illness passes.

It’s not a perfect solution. Not everyone has access to clean water. You need to have a clean container, too, and you need to be able to measure. And it’s not the best possible fluid for rehydration; it’s merely very good.

But it’s cheap and finding the water, the container, the sugar, and the salt is something almost everyone can do. It is something a mother or a father can do at home to heal their child. You don’t need a doctor, a hospital, an expert of any kind. Oral rehydration salts will not hurt a healthy child, and they won’t make a sick child sicker, even if they don’t heal. No one goes broke providing them, or ends up dependent on an expensive foreign-made drug.

To the parents of a sick child, oral rehydration salts are nothing short of miraculous.

Put the water in the glass first. Add the salt. Stir well. It should be no saltier than tears. Add the sugar. At least a teaspoon; more is okay. Help your little girl drink it.

There. You just performed a miracle, yourself.