When diarrhea occurs, your body loses fluids, which are used for tissues, lymph and blood and electrolytes which are chemicals that conduct nerve impulses and provide building blocks for our internal chemical reactions. When your fluids and electrolytes go down, you can die. Children all over the world have been saved by oral rehydration therapy for diarrhea. A packet of sugar and mineral salts in water can replace the electrolytes. You should start early, because when the electrolytes are very depleted it is harder to rebalance them. This is especially true in infants and the elderly.
You can purchase Pedialyte made up, and I suggest that everyone should have a bottle on hand, stored low to the ground in the front of a cupboard. (I speak from experience after being felled by fluid loss after a bout with giardia, and being unable to stand up and find my oral rehydration salt packets, much less mix them up. And when you are dizzy from diarrhea, you need fluids now.) But Pedialyte is expensive and you can buy or make the salts for later administration.
In a pinch, dilute orange juice with a little salt and honey can be used. (Use sugar for children under 1 year old.) Or a little gingerale with salt (not diet gingerale.) Sodas have too much sugar to salt, so will not replace electrolytes properly.
Salt and sugar are the two most important electrolytes in the mix, at least in the developed world. You need real sugar, raw or refined to fuel the brain and absorb the salts. You can use the plain stuff, but it will have fewer minerals. I suggest you use potassium as well as salt and sugar. If you don’t have salt substitute, then 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar can substitute as a potassium source. If you don’t have either one, go buy some salt substitute. The idea is to be prepared now for something that will happen later.
1/2 teaspoon sea salt.
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1/4 teaspoon salt substitute (potassium chloride) or 4 teaspoons cream of tartar.
8 teaspoons raw, brown or white sugar.
You may add 1/2 teaspoon of dry ginger to help settle the stomach.
This makes enough for one quart (liter) of water. Mix the salts and sugar well and add water.
Make up several packets at once an you will be prepared for flu or any other dehydration situation.
For children, start with small volumes given by teaspoon every 15 to 20 minutes. The volume can be increased as tolerated by the child. During the first four to six hours, a one-year-old child should use at least 4 ounces per hour (two tablespoons equals one ounce). After the initial four hours, a one-year-old child (about 22 pounds) should take about 1/2 cup of solution every time he has diarrhea, in addition to routine amounts of fluids. Infants should take less. If you are nursing the infant, continue to nurse.
In the initial four to six hours, older children should take about 3/4 to 1 1/2 ounces for each pound (that’s 8 ounces per hour for a 40-pound child) as tolerated. After that, 1/2 to 1 cup of oral rehydration solution at every diarrhea is recommended. Adults can drink as desired, but should have at least 2 cups at each occasion of diarrhea.
Do not make the solution too concentrated, or the body may get hypernatremia where the salts are too concentrated in the kidneys and the blood is not nourished by the solution.
If the person does not immediately respond, call for medical assistance. Intravenous rehydration is much faster than oral rehydration.