Oral Rehydration Preparations

Preparations used to treat dehydration resulting from diarrhoea and vomiting

Oral rehydration preparations are made up of water and essential minerals, such as sodium and potassium, that are lost during severe attacks of diarrhoea or vomiting. Usually, drinking plenty of fluids to replace the water that the body loses in diarrhoea or vomiting is the only treatment needed for adults. However, it may be necessary to give oral rehydration preparations to treat fluid loss that occurs in infants and young children. These groups are at a higher risk of dehydration because any water lost accounts for a higher proportion of the total water content in their bodies.

Rehydration preparations contain the minerals sodium, which is necessary for the body to retain water, and potassium, which is vital for the functioning of nerves and muscle. Both these minerals may be lost very quickly and in large amounts as a result of diarrhoea and vomiting. The preparations also contain glucose, a sugar that improves the absorption of sodium and water through the wall of the intestine and into the bloodstream.

Rehydration preparations can be purchased over the counter as soluble tablets or as powder for reconstitution with water. Some are flavoured to make them more palatable.

Once you have made up a batch, it should be used within an hour unless it is stored in a refrigerator, when it can be kept for up to 24 hours. When used according to instructions, oral rehydration preparations do not cause side effects.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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