Stop the Cycle

Diarrheal Disease Solutions

ORS & Zinc

Diarrhea causes dehydration and a loss of nutrients, so it’s important to address both. Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) replenish fluids and electrolytes, and zinc supplements help to restore levels of the micronutrient (and subsequently limit the severity of diarrheal episodes and prevent future ones). Together, they address the immediate dangers posed by diarrheal episodes and help to restore good health.


ORS is a simple, lifesaving mixture of sugar and salt added to clean water that caregivers can give to children at home.

  • Problem: diarrhea-related dehydration

    Diarrhea becomes fatal when it leads to severe dehydration.

    Children in developing countries suffer from dehydrating diarrhea an average of four times per year. But the rate of ORS use in high-burden settings is less than half; often, caregivers don’t know about or can’t access ORS and zinc, or they are given an antibiotic by a private seller who wants a higher profit.

    Learn more about why diarrhea is so dangerous.

  • Solution: effective rehydration

    ORS rehydrates by replacing fluids and electrolytes lost through diarrhea.

    ORS should always be given as a first line of defense to prevent and address diarrhea-related dehydration. The success of ORS critically depends on caregivers. A key component includes educating and reducing skepticism among caregivers. If and when an episode becomes severe, intravenous fluids and urgent medical care may be needed.

    As of 2001, a new ORS with reduced sodium and glucose (sugar) content is available. The updated formula, low-osmolarity ORS, is packaged as a powder to be mixed with safe water. It’s easy to use and can be administered by a health care provider or at home. The new formula improves efficacy and reduces the need for unscheduled intravenous fluid interventions. The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF both recommend the use of low-osmolarity ORS.

  • Impact: treat dehydration, save lives

    ORS has made and continues to make a big impact in reducing deaths related to diarrheal disease. More needs to be done to increase ORS coverage globally.

  • Global guidance: ORS and zinc

    WHO and UNICEF recommend the use of ORS and zinc for the treatment of acute diarrhea. Learn more.

    PATH and partners have launched a petition to WHO requesting the inclusion of co-packaged ORS and zinc on its essential medicines list for children (EMLc) to increase uptake of diarrhea treatment best practices. Learn more.



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Zinc is an important micronutrient needed for overall health and development.

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