8 Things You Need To Know About Oral Rehydration

Updated on June 29, 2022

It’s been taught since childhood that drinking enough water is good for the body. But not everyone abides by that simple fact and neglects that body’s need for proper rehydration. 

Proper rehydration becomes important when people experience vomiting and/or diarrhea since these conditions can result in dehydration. The problem is that if you’re trying to rehydrate yourself in these situations, water alone isn’t enough. That’s because when you expel bodily fluid, you’re also losing sodium, not only water. Sodium is vital for your cells to function well, and it also helps the body hang on to fluid.

What options do you have if the water isn’t enough? Because of the need to supplement water intake with sodium among people suffering from dehydration, an oral rehydration solution (ORS) has been introduced. Read on below to learn more about oral rehydration. 

What Is An Oral Rehydration Solution? 

Unlike other fluids, an oral rehydration solution’s ingredients ratio matches what the human body requires to recover from a dehydration-causing illness like diarrhea. 

Here are three ingredients that generally compose an ORS:

  • Electrolytes help the body function properly.
  • Commercially sealed water (disinfected or boiled water can also be used)
  • Sugar to help the body absorb salts

Note that ORS doesn’t treat diarrhea’s cause. What it does, instead, is to replace the water, salts, and sugar your body lost because of the illness or because of improper hydration routines.

You Can Take Other Electrolytes-rich Drinks 

Other than specially formulated oral hydration products, such as DripDrop ORS, people suffering from dehydration can also find relief by consuming non-commercial, electrolyte-rich drinks. There are many easily available electrolyte-rich beverages you can incorporate into your daily routine, including smoothies, watermelon water, milk, and coconut water. 

For more serious dehydration cases, though, commercial oral rehydration products may be the better solution as they contain more electrolytes. Just make sure to avoid sports drinks because, while they can help refuel and replenish your body with electrolytes, they often have high levels of sugar, as well as artificial coloring and flavoring.  

How To Take Oral Rehydration Solutions 

Prepare 200 mL of drinking water (make sure it’s distilled or purified, not mineral). Since most oral rehydration products come in powder form, open the sachet to pour the contents into the water. Then, stir until the solution is slightly cloudy or clear.

Once the solution is ready, make sure you drink the entire glass. Note that not drinking it in one go is okay, but make sure to finish it within 30 minutes.

Check the product box or label for the estimated doses if you’ve bought the ORS online or over-the-counter. If your doctor is the one giving it to you, they’ll calculate the exact dosage that’s right for you.

Oral Rehydration Therapy’s Mechanism 

As already mentioned, oral rehydration solutions work by replacing the water, salts, and sugar the body loses. However, it’s not the only thing that oral rehydration therapy does. It also helps in slowing the evacuation of fluids from your body. Fluid evacuation rapidly takes place when diseases like diarrhea and cholera hit an individual. It may lead to chronic dehydration that, if not treated, may result in death. By slowing down fluid evacuation, oral rehydration solutions allow for more efficient absorption of electrolytes in your intestines.

Phases Of Oral Rehydration 

Oral rehydration therapy has two phases. The rehydration phase covers the oral rehydration solution’s intake to replace losses of fluids and electrolytes. The second one is the maintenance phase, which is the continuous intake of the solution. 

Those with mild to moderate cases must take 50 to 100ml per kilogram of bodyweight. If the patient has severe dehydration, saline solution through IV therapy is required instead. You can check new options for IV therapy here. There are now many options available, with benefits ranging from rehydration to boosting immunity to easing sickness; and all offered from the comfort of your own home. Only when the condition improves may the patient be allowed to downgrade once more to the rehydration solution.   

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Interactions With Other Drugs 

Oral rehydration solutions may interact with the medications that you’re currently taking. These interactions may change how they work. 

The best thing to do is keep a list of the drugs you’re using, including herbal products. Then, to avoid potential drug interactions, share it with your doctor to get some advice. The physician will reevaluate your treatment plan. You either have to discontinue taking a specific medication, adjust its dosage, or use another drug.   

How Much Oral Rehydration Solution Is Enough? 

One may wonder about how much ORS a patient should take for health reasons. If your thirst is gone after drinking and your urine color normalizes, you’ve had enough water intake. Rehydration solutions must be taken according to your body weight. 

The treatment for an individual suffering from mild dehydration must consume a rough estimate of liquid every four to six hours:  

  • 0 to 5kg/11lbs – 200 to 400ml 
  • 5 to 20kg/44lbs – 400 to 1000ml 
  • 20 to 40kg and above – 1000 to 4000ml 

In some extreme cases, older children and adults can take 100ml of oral rehydration solution every five minutes. There are different measures as well, depending on the severity of dehydration. Patients will undergo an assessment to get the proper treatment. Seniors can also prevent incontinence issues through adequate rehydration.

Oral Rehydration Is Cost-effective 

Oral rehydration therapy is more affordable than traditional IV therapy. Deploying ORS is also much easier, especially when using it for major humanitarian crises or when multiple patients have to be treated at once. Not to mention, oral rehydration therapy is also non-invasive and won’t lead to infection when improperly administered.

With ORS, rehydration can begin right away. People who don’t have the means to go to a medical facility for IV treatment can take oral rehydration solutions themselves at home when symptoms appear. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Dehydration will improve in three to four hours after taking the solution.   


Oral rehydration replaces lost water and electrolytes by helping the body absorb and retain more of them when in a dehydrated state. It’s been saving lives since the World Health Organization recommended it for those suffering from diarrhea caused by cholera. This cost-effective solution contains the right proportion of salts and sugars and can help treat dehydration through regular intake until rehydration occurs. 

One can make an oral rehydration solution at home, although the commercially-available products are more recommended. Before taking any solution, seek your doctor’s advice to ensure your safety, especially when you’re currently taking other medications or drugs.

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