May 27, 2008 -- Drinking flat soda or other carbonated beverages is no substitute for specially formulated rehydration drinks when it comes to treating a dehydrated child.
A new study shows there's no scientific evidence to back up the notion that drinking soft drinks, flat or otherwise, helps treat child dehydration. Researchers say parents should be discouraged from using sugar-laden soft drinks as a treatment and stick to oral rehydration solutions for mild cases of child dehydration.
Oral rehydration solutions are beverages that contain the ideal balance of electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium) and sugar for avoiding dehydration in people who are losing fluids because of diarrhea and vomiting. They are also called electrolyte solutions and are available by brand names and generic brands.
Researchers at the children's emergency department at Watford General Hospital in the UK say it's commonly believed that drinking flat soft drinks is an effective alternative, especially for children who don't like the taste of rehydration solutions.
Sodas No Substitute
But in their review of research on the issue, published in the Archives of Childhood Diseases, they couldn't find any published studies to support this recommendation.
As an alternative, researchers analyzed the contents of common soft drinks vs. oral rehydration solutions to see if they were comparable. They found carbonated soft drinks contained too much sugar and not enough sodium and potassium to be an effective treatment for mild dehydration in children.
For example, World Health Organization recommendations call for oral rehydration solutions to contain 75 millimoles/liter (mmol/L) of sodium and the same amount of glucose (sugar). In comparison, soft drinks contain less than 10 mmol/L of sodium and up to 550 mmol/L of sugar, more than seven times the recommended amount.