For children to be healthy, they need to be well hydrated, have enough nutrients and have adequate electrolyte balance in their body, to name a few.
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals that are found in food that help the body perform its functions well. Some electrolytes you may have heard of before are Sodium, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium.
Each electrolyte serves its own special function in maintaining the healthy body systems in place. For example, water “follows” sodium in different compartments of the body and calcium is used to make bones strong.
The body is incredibly good at regulating the electrolytes and their function in the body, except in certain illnesses, such as diarrhoea.
What is Diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea can be loosely defined as the passage of 3 or more loose or liquid stools per day. There are different causes of diarrhoea, with the most common being viral and bacterial. To prevent diarrhoea, it is important to drink clean water and to wash your hands frequently. If you think your water is dirty, read the additional resource on how to clean your water. Vaccinations for your child should have also helped tremendously.
Children with diarrhoea lose a lot of water, nutrients and electrolytes through their stool. This results in children becoming very dehydrated, thin and they also have errors in the electrolyte balance. Diarrhoea kills many children all over the world, but it is important to know that it is preventable and that it can be treated easily.
What to do if your child has diarrhoea
If your child has diarrhoea, the first and best thing you can do is to make a drink called “Oral Rehydration Solution” also called “ORS”. It works by using sodium (in salt) and sugar to help move water back into the body. Here is the recipe:
- Boil 1 litre of water
- Add 8 level teaspoons of sugar
- Add half a level teaspoon of salt
It is very important that you follow this recipe closely, if you get it wrong it can make your child more sick.
Mix this together and wait for it to cool before you start giving small sips to your child. Keep giving small sips to the child. If he/she vomits, wait 10 minutes before giving more sips again.
Take your child to the nearest clinic for more help if he/she is not getting better or if the child has any of the following danger signs:
- If your child cannot drink or breastfeed
- If your child is vomiting
- If your child has convulsions
- If your child is lethargic or weak