pre-packed ORS referred to as "complete
formula" and why is a home-prepared solution not as effective for treatment? Are they
not both basically sugar, salt and water anyway?
No. They are not the same thing at all. The "complete formula" ORS contains potassium and a base -
either bicarbonate or citrate - which corrects acidosis which small infants in particular
suffer when they are dehydrated. Potassium is important in the treatment of dehydration - most especially
for the child who suffers repeated bouts of diarrhoea. Potassium is a vital essential element that occurs in the body cells
(but very little exists in the body fluids, almost all of the body's potassium is locked
inside the cells). It is not involved in the so-called "glucose-sodium co-transport
mechanism" which is the basis of the way in which ORS achieves rehydration. Therefore potassium is only absorbed passively and more slowly. If a
child is rehydrated with a solution containing no potassium each successive attack of
diarrhoea leaves the child more and more depleted of potassium - this results in fatigue,
apathy and muscular weakness, the typical bloated belly of a malnourished child is largely
caused by potassium depletion causing the muscles of the abdomen to slack. Finally such a
child will die.