Oral Rehydration Solution vs. Water

Updated on November 27, 2016
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Leanne works at a community pharmacy with wonderful people and great customers. She is also the mom of three boys.


Why would you use an ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution)?

Depending on our stage of life, our body is as much as 75% water. On occasion because of illness, extreme exercise, working, travel or weather conditions, we can become dehydrated.

Everyone should be drinking water, but when you are actually dehydrated an oral rehydration solution (ORS) is much more efficient for rehydration. An ORS is a balanced solution of glucose and electrolytes that is specially formulated to help replace fluids and lost electrolytes.

Some examples of ORS's that you can purchase from a pharmacy (where you can also get good advice) or from a supermarket are: Gastrolyte, Hydralyte, and Pedialyte.

Oral Rehydration Solutions

Not All Drinks Are Good When You're Dehydrated

Fizzy drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices etc. can be high in sugar, and can make vomiting and diarrhoea worse. When you are dehydrated the balance of electrolytes Oral rehydration solutions have are a better choice, particularly if you have other health issues.

If you are exercising or doing a lot of physical work and you want to 'prevent' dehydration, pay particular attention to your water intake, before, during and after your session. This is where your carbohydrate containing sports drinks are great, for your moderate to high intensity exercise that goes on for an hour or more.

Feeling thirsty is NOT an accurate way to assess your level of hydration, it's important to plan how much you're going to drink. The colour of your urine output and volume is the best way to assess your hydration levels, the lighter/clearer the colour the more hydrated you are.

Simple ways to avoid dehydration

Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks including energy drinks and also drinks containing alcohol and cola. These types of drinks can make dehydration worse.

Make a deliberate effort to drink a certain amount of water every day, you may need more than 8 glasses depending on what you're doing.

If you are recovering from diarrhoea and vomiting try eating small amounts of watermelon as it has a high water content. Bland starchy foods such as dry bickies, bread, rice or mashed potato are good because they are easy for the body to absorb. Bananas are also a good source of potassium and sodium which help the body to recover from dehydration. Green apples and cucumber are also great hydrating foods.

Also when recovering 'avoid' too many dairy products and fatty or spicy food.

Signs of dehydration in infants and children

Some of the signs of dehydration in infants are:

  • a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on the top of your baby’s head)
  • sunken eyes
  • fewer tears when crying
  • less wet nappies
  • dry cool skin

Childrens symptoms can include:

  • sunken eyes
  • lethargy
  • irritability
  • urinating less often and dark yellow urine
  • dry mouth and dry skin.

Severe dehydration can occur quickly and is considered a medical emergency. It's important to seek medical advice if a baby or child has had persistent vomiting or diarrhoea for the following lengths of time:

  • baby under 6 months old: more than 6 hours
  • child under age 3: more than 12 hours
  • child ages 3-6: more than 24 hours
  • child age 6 and up: more than 48 hours

Consult Your Doctor

Severe dehydration is a medical emergency!

Signs of dehydration in adults

Some signs of dehydration in adults:

  • dry mouth
  • lethargy
  • headaches, dizziness
  • less output of urine

Possibly the best indicator for adult dehydration is the colour of the urine, the darker it appears the more dehydrated you are.

Be well!

So like our Vulcan cousins say "Live long and Prosper" and 'drink plenty of water', (well not sure if they actually said that bit, but they probably should have.

Hydralyte iceblocks

The colder the solution the better the taste.  Hydralyte ice blocks are excellent for kids.
The colder the solution the better the taste. Hydralyte ice blocks are excellent for kids.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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