After a disaster, beware of diarrhea

The aftermath of a disaster can often kill more people than the disaster itself and one of the main risks is disease. Poor sanitation caused by the disruption often leads to outbreaks of acute diarrhea. We saw this during Typhoon Ondoy where diarrhea was one of the top killers in evacuation centers. It was also a huge problem in post-earthquake Haiti when a cholera epidemic infected 1,500 people in just a few days.

Even during normal times, diarrhea is the 3rd leading cause of child illness and the 4th leading cause of deaths among children less than 5 years in the Philippines.

Diarrhea kills through rapid dehydration and children are especially susceptible as they can succumb in a matter of hours. Nevertheless, deaths can be prevented by simply making sure that the patient drinks a lot of clean water with oral rehydration salts. Unfortunately, these are difficult to find after a disaster. Aid workers in Haiti were distressed to find that many were dying for want of something that costs so little.

Simple ways to safeguard your family

There’s no reason why your family should suffer from an outbreak of diarrhea.

  • Stock up on Oral Rehydration Salts. These are available from Watsons and Mercury Drug for around Php10 to Php15 per sachet.
  • Stock up on antidiarrheal medications like Diatabs (Loperamide) which are less than Php30 for four capsules.
  • Make sure you have access to clean water for drinking and washing.
  • Eat cooked food or food washed well in clean water.
  • As much as possible, continue with your usual sanitation habits.
Oral Rehydration Salts and Diatabs

Oral Rehydration Salts and Diatabs

Household alternatives

If you don’t have any commercially produced ORS at home, rehydrate.org suggests the following alternatives:

  • Breastmilk
  • Gruels (diluted mixtures of cooked cereals and water)
  • Carrot Soup
  • Rice water (congee)
  • Fresh fruit juice
  • Weak tea
  • Green coconut water (buko juice)
  • A home-made solution of salt, sugar and if possible, orange juice or mashed banana (see link for recipe and instructions)

Remember: make sure you first check with your pediatrician if these alternatives are suitable for your child.

Additional resources

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One response to “After a disaster, beware of diarrhea

  1. When we had Typhoon Pepeng, the floods in our area backed up the sewage and the toilets were unuseable for a few days. With floods reaching up to my chest (Im 5′ 10″) going to the store for supplies was out of the question. Stocking up on plain Bleach was helpful in cleanliness and keeping rainwater dininfected. We never got sick the two weeks we had the flood. No water and power too-and I had a 6 month old baby!
    Also, disposable plates and eating utensils also prevent diseases from improperly washed utensils.

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