Note that ORS is not given in every life-threatening condition, for you not to be misled by the topic. Diarrhea itself can range from mild conditions to serious ones that can be life-threatening. It is also more common to find children being affected with life-threatening diarrhea than adults.
On the day of starting to write this, I'm dealing with some mad diarrhea, I'm talking the once every two hours kind. Though I wouldn't call that life-threatening, it kind of helps to stay hydrated in those types of situations.
According to the World Health Organisation, Diarrhoea is the passage of loose watery poop more than 3 times a day...or in a manner that just seems a little too frequent. Well, not in those words anyway, WHO did not say poop, they used the word stool.
Diarrhea is one of those conditions that everyone has experienced at some point in their lives. You know how it is when you have it. It wakes you up in the middle of the night, takes you out of class, stops your journeys halfway, makes you soil your diaper...that's if you have memories of those times. It's a respecter of no man.
If it could be enumerated the number of times celebrities had to cancel because they chose to eat where they were not supposed you'd be surprised... or not...seeing as they are more likely to have healthy food than most of the population.
This takes me to one important issue in ORS:
Before we dive into how diarrhea can be managed, we must know how we stop it from happening. Everyone has said prevention is better than cure, right?
In Africa, life expectancy is low, and it is believed that we haven't gone away from old England in terms of sewage drainage and water hygiene. What am I trying to say?
Watch what you drink
Safe drinking water saves lives, more lives than you think. In the same manner, good sewage systems can save lives, it is also important to note those who provide this form of convenience..the plumbers.
Some people believe that plumbers have saved more lives than doctors. As a doctor, I really hope this is not true because it makes me feel like doctors' abilities are belittled by the statement. But anyway I strongly believe that good sewage drainage is a major problem and is an indirect cause of death due to diarrheal diseases.
Watch where you live
Improved sanitary habits as a group of humans is also a factor to consider when trying to prevent diarrheal diseases. Even if there are good sources of water and good sewage systems, things can still go bad when people have bad habits.
Take Mandela hostel for example. What is a Madela hostel you may ask? This is a hostel in the University of Port Harcourt with a bad stench emanating from it. It was filled with boys who had bad hygiene practices.
Not to promote any gender stereotypes but some girls moved into one of the blocks and over time the stench from the hostel stopped.
With those types of modifications more common in developed countries (who to their own credit have been working on it for years) than in the undeveloped, it makes diarrhoeal diseases more common in Undeveloped countries like the ones in Africa.
Watch...no wash your hand
Not unlike the other point about having a good environment, good hand washing hygiene can save your life from some mad diarrhea, and not just from COVID. With the amount of germs we come in contact with it's no wonder bad hand hygiene can kill you.
We would kill these germs by squishing them between our hands, suffocating them till our hands are germ-free but we can't see them, and they live in tiny spaces on our palms that are too small to see with our human eyes.
The only way to kill these microbes is with soap because it goes between the spaces flushing them with foamy fluid and carry these organisms out of the hand when we rinse and dry our hands.
Watch what you feed your kids
Unlike adults that have a good immune system children and more so babies have a weaker immune system just like the elderly.
When we are exposed to a non-toxic dose of an organism found in food or water or our hands while licking them (as you would find a baby doing) we put ourselves at risk of diarrheal diseases but because we are adult and our immune system has had more wins against these types of diseases, we tend to fight them off.
When babies, who do not wash their hand regularly (so, basically all of them are at risk) gets exposed to that same amount that was not harmful to an adult would leave them to fight with just their innate immune system which includes secretions from the saliva, gastric secretions and other secretions from the intestinal tract.
Because the amount of germs taken in is higher more organisms will survive the innate immune system to different parts of the intestinal tract where they can cause disease.
If we could stop this process from happening around the world we would prevent the death of 8% of all the deaths that usually claim children's lives according to UNICEF.
So what's the solution to all this, breast milk. Breast milk you ask? Yes, Breast milk can save babies. In addition to being absolutely clean (cause they come directly from the manufacturer...boobs) breast milk has immunoglobulins that confer some protection for the babies.
This is why babies are supposed to breastfeed for the first 6 months of their lives Read here. So that while they are working on developing their acquired immune system they can be protected by their mother's milk.
This goes without saying that the mother should practice good hygiene for herself and her baby. This takes me to my next point.
Watch...no Wash your body
Your outer body is the environment of your inner body, just like the environment affects how clean we are, the body affects how clean our inner body is.
So while we emphasize the importance of handwashing knowing that the hands are part of the body we still need to keep the rest of the body clean.
Imagine what it would be like if you washed your hand and used it to touch any part of your body that has not been washed in days.
In old England some boys would climb on chimneys to clean them, it was found that these boys would end up with scrotal cancer. I'm just trying to point out how important hygiene is. It is so important that it prevented cancer at some point.
watch...and wash your food...uncooked ones
Of course, you won't want to actually wash your food with soap and chemicals and whatnot. watch your food, make sure it's properly cooked so all those germs we talked about earlier will be dead and you don't have to worry about them anymore.
This also does not mean that you burn your food or cause it to lose its taste. What I mean is that you should boil or fry properly. A good 100 degrees won't kill the taste of your food but will kill most infectious organisms. and do it over time.
A good indicator for me when it comes to meat is for it to get really soft. This also makes the food more edible.
Don't eat rotten food also, be it cooked or uncooked. You're introducing too much trouble for your immune system to handle.
Watch what you read
I really didn't know how to add this information in the normal pattern I have been following so, forgive me. Watch what you read means, educate yourself..wash your brain? No? Ok.
Read good information on hygiene and diarrhea, like this one. In fact, follow me and get my weekly write-ups. Please.
Then you can talk to your doctor or read other informative blogs (Even though non of them is as fun as mine).
It is more important if you ask me to get the right information than a lot of information. So talk to or read from someone who has lived out the information from experience.
Before we talk about how to make ORS the main point of this topic. I'd like to digress a little bit.
What can cause this nasty ness that is diarrhea?
Eating or Drinking contaminated poop The truth is most water bodies have poop in them and we get our water after purification of the pooped wanter. However, we do not get diarrhea.
When the poop gets in contact with our drinking water or food is infected we stand a chance of getting infected by the poop. Defecating into lakes is more common in very rural settings in Africa. In these areas is more common to find people who suffer from water-borne infections that manifest as diarrhea.
Because these settlements are more common in Africa, diarrheal diseases are less common almost everywhere else except in Africa where the trends are not reducing. Read here
This is also the reason why food handlers are tested for food born infections...it because they are more likely to transmit it than others because the organisms that cause the infection like to travel through poop so they can get to the next food and survive for a while in a human host.
Not eating enough Its been found that children who do not have enough to eat are more likely to be affected by diarrheal disease. This is because their immune system is weakened and they can not fight back against whatever infection that may come by.
This is usually the case for most diseases anyway. The immunoglobulins are proteins and for our bodies to make proteins, we need proteins. It is like trying to make bullets without lead. And if there is no lead the how can the country fight?
The country is the human body in this case.
Hanging out with infected people This too can predispose you to be infected with diarrhea. Imagine after washing your hands and having a bath, you go shake hands with the dumpster guy (no offense to the dumpster guy) but he is not clean.
Now I'm not saying that you should go around telling your friends to have a bath before they hug or shake you, no. I'm saying that people can give it to people and you need to be a little bit mindful of that.
I'd like to think that the dumpster guy knows that he is dirty unless he's a bum on the road. So, whoever it is should know that you probably do not want to soil yourself by hugging them...
Or maybe it's the case that you haven't had your bath yet and both you and your friend are not particularly clean then both of you need to take a bath.
Store your food in a clean place Don't leave your food out in the open, it can get infected. Cover your food and warm it as often as possible (say 2 to 3 hours after cooking it).
I actually suck at warming food because my laziness comes in waves. But I see no difficulty in putting food in the fridge and microwaving it when I want it. ITs way easier for me...
Now back to the topic
ORS stands for Oral rehydration Solution. And it comes in already made packs made by...companies and it can be made at home.
ORS, as the name implies it is used for rehydration. It treatment after food poisoning and a simple home...or work therapy to get you back in shape.
You see when you have diarrhea, your body loses a lot of water and eectrolyte. But your body can't take in all that water without salt because then the electrolyte in your body becomes reduced.
It is like your body had salt and sugar in it and it lost water, salt, and sugar, but you're replacing just water.
So that's why you need to replace it with salt, sugar, and water.
How to constitute ORS and Save lives
Like I said this is a home remedy for diarrhea and some cases of diarrhea may not respond to this remedy. You must be seen by a doctor if the symptoms are getting worse despite rehydration with ORS.
For example, if the person starts vomiting, has a fever, is getting weak and irritable. In babies, they can start crying without tears.
A person who has lost consciousness should not be given ORS THey should be seen as soon as possible by a doctor. Check here
ORS is made by adding half a teaspoon of salt and 6 spoons of sugar to 1 liter of water.
Other similar therapy
You can try drinking water, eating bananas and rice. I've read that apple sauce helps...generally fruits are good. zinc tablets, or just go for off-the-counter antimotility drugs.
If any of these do not work after 2 days it would be good to swing by a hospital and have a doctor look at you.
ORS has been saving lives from diarrhea. Although it is not a silver bullet..in fact, it is far from it. It is just the most popular remedy for dealing with it at home there is.