Should Oral Rehydration Solution Be Next to the Band-Aids on Your Medicine Shelf?

CC BY-SA 2.0. Ryan Hyde

Death from diarrhea used to be the leading cause of mortality in developing nations. The introduction of oral rehydration therapy (ORT) has profoundly reduced this. Dehydration continues to be a problem around the world. A recent report from the front of a horrific epidemic makes an extraordinary claim: deaths from Ebola could be cut in half just with rehydration therapy. No wonder ORT is on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines.

This topic is particularly of interest to me as I recently wrote an article about a potentially revolutionary water filtration system, the Naked Filter. But clean water is only part of the equation. If you have a child sick with diarrhea, even prodigious amounts of water often will not help them.

I caught a bit of traveler's revenge once many years ago, in a country where such episodes are common. My friends there gave me a couple sachets of powder with the advice to dissolve it in water and drink it several times daily. I followed their advice, and continued to follow the busy itinerary already set for the trip. The solution tasted awful, but its effects can only be described as miraculous.

There are many rehydration options, often in the baby aisle at the local drug store or supermarket, but one product particularly provoked my interest: DripDrop. DripDrop doesn't claim any scientific breakthrough, rather that their product simply tastes better. According to further claims, the product has two to three times the electrolytes and half the sugar of sports drinks, and no artificial colors or flavors (although the sugar content is reduced by the use of an artificial sweetener, sucralose, in combination with the natural sugars at levels designed to enhance water absorption). Since simply drinking (and keeping down) the large volumes of liquid needed for effective therapy in severe cases can be a problem with ORT, could this better tasting oral rehydration solution be better?

hydration on the job

peosoldier/CC BY 2.0

For most activities, rehydration simply with clean water suffices and many doctors recommend the pure H2O rather than sugary sports drinks for the purpose. But for more extreme activities, from the military to rock stars, it may be necessary to replenish the salts (electrolytes) that enable our bodies to absorb and transport the water we drink to the cells that need it. In fact, Van Halen lead Sammy Hagar, guitarist Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, and soloist Joe Satriani have endorsed fund-raising projects for DripDrop, which promises a portion of all sales go to help people in need of ORT in developing nations.

Of course you already know, especially if you self-medicate with ORT more than a day or two, to contact your doctor. I am interested to know if any readers have tried DripDrop or other ORT at home? What was your experience?