Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) – a treatment for severe dehydration – originated decades ago as a response to a global cholera epidemic.
While cholera is not a prevailing concern in the United States today, diarrhea is. Despite America’s advances in sanitation and medical science, it remains one of the most common pediatric illnesses in the country, with more than 20 million episodes reported each year in children 5 years old or younger. And according to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 500 children die each year as a result of dehydration stemming from diarrhea.
While most cases of childhood dehydration in the U.S. are relatively minor, requiring nothing more than fluid intake from water and milk, more serious cases can be caused by diarrhea and viral gastroenteritis (otherwise known as “the stomach flu”). In these cases, oral rehydration management tactics are often used.
Oral rehydration management involves the intake of fluids that contain an ideal mixture of salt, sugar, potassium, electrolytes, and other minerals to help replenish a child’s normal levels. Oral rehydration solutions are readily and commercially available at most grocery stores and pharmacies without a prescription.
While intravenous therapy is occasionally used for moderate to severe dehydration, oral rehydration management is far less stressful, as it rules out the need for unpleasant needle pokes.
If your child is enduring a bout of diarrhea or gastroenteritis, keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Keep a close eye out for any signs of dehydration:
- Dry, tired eyes
- Infrequent urination
- Encourage fluids, and let your child drink as much as he or she wants, but do not force consumption.
- Consult with your pediatric provider as soon as possible to determine whether your child would benefit from oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte.
- Administer ORT in small, frequent doses over the course of 3-4 hours. This helps your child to retain the benefits of the solution, while reducing the chance of regurgitation.
- If your child has not urinated in 12 hours; refuses to eat or drink; or cannot keep fluids down – seek medical attention immediately.
KinderMender regularly treats patients for symptoms stemming from diarrhea and viral gastroenteritis, and our physicians are well-versed in the signs of dehydration. If you believe your child may be suffering from any of these conditions, don’t delay. We can suggest oral rehydration management techniques to replenish your child’s fluids and get them back up on their feet in no time flat.