- Certain types of salts (sodium, chloride, potassium) are needed by your body for many processes, eg, to regulate water in and around cells, for brain function, to aid digestion and to regulate blood pressure. So it is important to replace them if you have become dehydrated.
- Oral rehydration salts (ORS) are a mixture of electrolytes (salts) and carbohydrates (in the form of sugar) dissolved in water. They are used to replace salts and water that the body loses when you have dehydration caused by gastroenteritis, diarrhoea or vomiting.
- Unlike other fluids you might drink to replace what you have lost, the proportion of salts and sugar in an ORS matches what your body needs to recover.
- Commercially-available ORS products like drinks, ice blocks, sachets or effervescent tablets for making solutions can be bought from pharmacies. They are often available in different flavours.
- Home-made salt/sugar mixtures are used in developing countries if rehydration drinks are not available, but they have to be made carefully as too much salt can be dangerous.
Note: Studies have found that for children aged 2 years or older, who are only a little dehydrated, diluted (half strength) apple juice is a good alternative to oral rehydration salts. Apple juice is more acceptable to children/tamariki, meaning that they are more likely to drink it and not need other treatment.