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Isotonic drinks against diarrhea?: a well-known pediatrician dismantles the myth and warns of its dangers

It is a more than established belief. “If the child has diarrhea, give him Aquarius” (or any isotonic drink). Older home remedies such as using rice water or boiled carrots also circulate, like dogmas of faith. Parents who have never received any of this advice should cast the first stone. However, few question its foundation and, what is worse, its effectiveness. Willing to dispel myths, the popular pediatrician Lucía Galán, known on social media as ‘Lucía My Pediatra’, recalled in a post on Instagram the risks of resorting to this type of treatment. «The salts and sugars that adults lose in sweat when we play sports have nothing to do with those that a child loses through the digestive tract through vomiting or diarrhea and have nothing to do with the salts and sugars that these soft drinks contain (little salt and a lot sugar),” he warns.

And, be careful! because the effect can also be counterproductive. “Aquarius has a very high concentration of sugar, which deceives the body, potentially aggravating the symptoms and ending up causing osmotic diarrhea due to the concentration of solutes (glucose) in the digestive tract.” The Malaga pharmacist Pablo García -author of the drug advice blog Mecadoo- expresses himself along the same lines: «Its potassium content is very low, and this is the main mineral that we lose during an episode of acute gastroenteritis, so we would not be making the correct contribution of minerals with their administration,” he recalls. And he adds: «Its high proportion of sugars causes a mechanism similar to that of osmotic laxatives: our body releases more water at the intestinal level. Because of this, we run the risk of worsening diarrhea and its subsequent loss of water and electrolytes,” says García.

Dehydration is another risk to which we expose the child with this homemade shortcut, as Dr. Galán warns. “It can increase the risk of dehydration because this excess sugar in the digestive tract causes the liquid in the body to move towards the intestinal lumen to try to dilute that content,” she points out.

The best solution: pharmacy oral serum

Having ruled out isotonic drinks, the question is what can we give them? The experts do not doubt: «In the first phase of diarrhea, when we do not want to eat and when the body quickly rejects everything, what we should give to a child who has it (and an adult) is pharmacy oral serum. “They have the exact amount of water, sodium, potassium and sugar they need to recover and not suffer the complications of dehydration, which can sometimes be very serious,” adds Lucía Mi Pediatra.

Pharmacist Pablo García agrees: «You have to drink what we know as rehydration drinks. In pharmacies we find them such as Sueroral, Bioralsuero, Cito Oral… Some already come with pre- and probiotics that help restore the intestinal flora, which is usually altered in these cases. These types of drinks do help replace the amount of minerals lost during gastroenteritis. They are, without a doubt, the ones that are really going to guarantee us a correct water and mineral intake in an episode of diarrhea,” he says.