Rehydrating Your Child Naturally: Homemade Pedialyte

I get a lot of questions about this from readers and have also wondered myself…how do you rehydrate your sick child without succumbing to the artificial ingredients found in Pedialyte?

Just ask any pediatrician across the country and they’ll likely say this is the beverage of choice when it comes to your little one recovering from the stomach bug… And in case you are not familiar with Pedialyte, it’s a hydration solution that is meant to offset the effects (such as vomiting or diarrhea) of illnesses like the flu.

Homemade Pedialyte from 100 Days of Real Food


I am not saying this drink won’t provide your sick child with some much needed nutrients (we’ve used it before ourselves years ago), but what about the unnecessary extras it comes with like artificial flavors, sweeteners, and color (yellow 6)?

We’ve already discussed some disturbing facts about the artificial dyes that require a warning label in many countries outside of the US, but as far as I can tell there aren’t many acceptable rehydration alternatives that don’t contain them (Gatorade or other sports drinks often come up as another electrolyte solution but it’s also full of artificial sweeteners and dyes).

And when I asked our pediatrician’s office if they could please recommend another option, since I wanted to avoid the questionable artificial ingredients in Pedialyte, they had no idea what I was talking about. I am honestly not sure why I was surprised.

So I decided to reach out to a local, board-certified pediatrician, who is also trained in integrative medicine, for some better choices on fast rehydration. Dr. Sheila Kilbane shared with me that there is actually an alternative, and it’s a well-known recipe provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) called Oral Rehydration Salts/Solution (N-ORS). In so many words she said this solution was created for those in developing countries that can’t just run down the street to the nearest Piggly Wiggly to grab some Pedialyte.

And after she explained it to me like that it made complete sense that there would be an acceptable, easy alternative to Pedialyte in existence. So I then went back to our regular pediatrician’s office and specifically asked if ORS would adequately replenish my child during a time of dehydration and this time they said “yes.” It’s amazing to me the amount of pull drug companies have on our doctors these days because Pedialyte is of course made by Abbott, one of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies on the planet.

I’d like to share this “Homemade Pedialyte” N-ORS version with you today, but with one warning message…

Disclaimer: This recipe is recommended for children who are older than 1, generally healthy with properly functioning kidneys, and not experiencing severe dehydration or high fever (which would probably require direct medical attention anyhow). And, as always, follow your own doctor’s advice over anything you find on the internet!

Homemade Pedialyte Recipe

Mix together:

  • 1 quart water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Note: If you fear your child will think this drink is too plain consider adding in a couple splashes of orange Juice. Also, the sugar and salt may dissolve more easily if you warm up the water first. You could also pour this solution into freezer pop molds and make homemade Pedialyte popsicles.

I did also ask Dr. Kilbane about using coconut water for rehydration since it does contain some natural electrolytes, but the concern there is the lack of sodium. Your body needs the sodium to help you retain the liquid, otherwise it will just go right through you. You could potentially add 1/4 teaspoon table salt and some OJ to coconut water to make sure both the sodium and sugar aspects are covered, but the recipe above is a sure thing.

Sponsor Shoutout: Plan to Eat
Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 8.48.44 PM

Before I let you go I want to make sure you know about our meal planning and online recipe organization sponsor, Plan to Eat! Kiran from our team uses Plan to Eat religiously to help her plan her family’s meals each week. Their service allows you to pick your own recipes (either from your collection or websites – like ours! hint hint) and then they organize your selected recipes for the week into one concise plan along with a corresponding shopping list. And here’s something they have never offered before…Plan to Eat is giving all of our readers 30% off (!!) annual memberships through February 28, 2013 with the coupon code “EatRealFood”.

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

380 thoughts on “Rehydrating Your Child Naturally: Homemade Pedialyte”

  1. No OJ! Citrus is very irritating to an inflamed stomach. Everything else is good. Probably coconut water is a good source of potassium to mix in.

  2. I do want to point out that there are no artificial ingredients in the “plain” pedialyte. It’s literally just water, dextrose (rather than sucrose) and the balanced electrolyte salts including zink which can be helpful and is missing in this recipe. It is bottled in plastic, so not great on that front, but for an infant or in severe dehydration the plain flavor would be great.

  3. Thank you so much. I am an adult and I used this to rehydrate. I spent months severely dehydrated. Nothing I tried worked to rebalance my electrolytes but these did. I used maple syrup bc I didn’t have any sugar. Thanks again.

  4. THANK YOU for posting this! I had remembered you sharing this on Facebook a while back and so when my 2-year-old daughter was sick all night and this morning and was starting to worry me, I remembered your post and gave it a try. As soon as she had a little in her system I could see color coming back to her face and she stopped vomiting. Within hours she had over 16 oz – that STAYED DOWN! Without a) having to run to the store, b) all the artificial dyes and flavors, etc. So happy! And now I’m sharing this recipe because it’s SO unbelievably easy! My daughter and I thank you!!

      1. This is wrong, Amy. Sugar and salt in no way help food stay down, I’m not sure why you are passing on this false information. The sugar is to help provide some energy (similar to how an IV works when you can’t consume food at the hospital by are dehydrated) while the salt is to help replace electrolytes. Plain old water does not replenish electrolytes.

    1. I used organic honey instead of sugar. Honey is beneficial when sick anyways. I used pink Himalaya salt since it has some trace minerals.

    2. Learned this after much study:
      UNFLAVORED Pedialyte (or equivalent)
      with a little plain grape juice
      (no additives) works well for times like these.

      It is difficult to digest starches and disaccharides
      (table sugar and most fruits) during a period of digestive upset.
      Plain grape juice contains ONLY fructose (a simple sugar).

      Plain meats (salt O.K.) are usually tolerated well
      once you start to feel a little better.
      (See the SPECIFIC CARBOHYDRATE DIET for the science behind this)
      “Breaking The Vicious Cycle” by Elaine Gottschall

      1. Fructose is actually difficult to digest and difficult to use. Mostly the liver converts it to fat. What you want is glucose (food industry name “Dextrose”, reflecting that it is entirely the D isomer and no other isomers). Basically everything in the body uses the D isomer of glucose, so it’s ready to go as soon as it’s absorbed. I have ordered it online to make a gatorade replacement, but it’s not generally available otherwise. It is sometimes used by home-brewers, so maybe available from a store that caters to them. It would be nice if it was, to make things like this.

        1. I just recalled that drug stores sell glucose products for diabetics. Some of them may be usable for this, but they’re probably pretty expensive compared to just buying a big thing of powder.

  5. CAN SOMEONE RECHECK THE INGREDIENT RATIOS? I have come across some variations and also warnings about small variations. The sugar component seems to vary the most. As an example: WebMD uses 1 quart (4 cups) water, 1/2 tsp salt and 6 tsp SUGAR. Compare that to 2 TBSP here.

    Another site uses 1 cup water with 2 tsp sugar, 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp. baking soda.

    With such simple ingredients you’d think we could get the ratios exact based on each cup of water used.

      1. That’s waaayyy too much sugar, There is something wrong with the measurements if someone thinks 6 tsp of sugar equal 2 Tbsp,

          1. My niece (a nurse) prefers the metric system because it avoids confusing measurements like teaspoons and tablespoons.

            I think that the US will (finally) convert to the metric system sometime in the 22nd century.

  6. Please update the post to place a warning: Don’t ever give coconut water to an infant under 5 yrs old. One of the recipes above calls for coconut water but people in developing countries know Not to give coconut water to babies and young children. My uncle gave coconut water to his 2 yr old nephew and sent him to the hospital.

    1. Wendy, please get your facts straight before posting false information. Coconut water is in fact very healthy for infants and in many countries is given to infants at early as 6 to 8 months. In fact, the first solid food that is eaten by a Thai baby is three spoonfuls of the custard like flesh of a young coconut and is fed to baby by a Buddhist priest. Please do your research!

    2. Good morning all you level headed but crazy thinking people…I just want to add to such a greatly discussed topic, yet what id like to add has nothing to do with pedialyte, homemade salt/sugar solution or the safety of coconut water consumption. Great topic, exactly what I was looking for. I’ve decided to just stick to the store bought stuff because my little guy is only 8 months old and it’s not worth the couple of dollars saved to find out it did him no good. After reading everyone’s comments it may be wrong of me but I can’t help but smile, laughing a little. Such a harsh debate. There are some people out there that take electrolytes seriously. And when it comes to our little ones we all want to give them the best. I just wanted to say I appreciate everything comment by everyone. Happy Holidays, wishing everyone the best electrolytes ever!!!

  7. Female – 67 – down with nasty bug. How not to start the new year. But I came here looking for ideas as I am NOT retaining the water I am drinking and finding myself in a constant battle to stay hydrated. You have reminded me of several excellent options & I bet I am going to feel differently by the end of this day.
    By the way tell your readership the story, history, reasoning behind the ORS. In a nutshell it was to keep the child alive until medical help could be reached as that is the real meaning of precious moments.
    AND the sugar is NOT just to enhance the taste. C12H22O11, which means each molecule of sugar contains 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms and 11 oxygen atoms = a lot of easily absorbed energy. I wouldn’t call carbon, hydrogen & oxygen a flavor enhancer esp. since those are the top three elements in our human bodies & the main fuel we need. Not all sugar is the enemy. Sorry.
    BTW I have been in bed for 5 days. Things prescribed seemed to be null & void. I could not think for myself and finally a light. Googled “How to make my own Pedialyte” AND you were the perfect answer. Good. Viable. Time tested info. Shared in a positive way, except for a couple of “experts”. :) TY. Thumbs up. P.S. If any of this does not make sense I’d say my brain is still a bit addled. Forgive.

  8. No, they are NOT found in perfect ratios in food. However, the body can process actual food differently than it does mined salts and sugars.

    This blog claims to present real food alternatives then says to mix up a bunch of salt and sugar water and call it “electrolytes.” Never mind that most of the electrolytes are missing from this salt/sugar water.

    If your child cannot keep fluid in his or her body, don’t feed them sugar/salt water. Take them to the doctor. If they can, pureed foods thinned with water or broth will deliver all the electrolytes, not just a couple. If you’re truly concerned about electrolyte balance, deliver the whole package.

  9. A thought: electrolytes aren’t simply nutrients like vitamin C. They actually require proper ratios because they control things like heart rate, lung function, nerve and muscle function. Electrolyte imbalances can be deadly and there are seven of them.

    The recipe provided here provides only sodium. It does not provide Chloride (Cl-), Potassium (K+), Magnesium (Mg++), Calcium (Ca++), Phosphate (HPO4–), or Bicarbonate (HCO3-).

    The sugar doesn’t provide anything, beyond making the drink more palatable.

    If someone is dehydrated and they will not drink or eat soup or drink a smoothie or they cannot keep liquids down/in, take them for medical care. If they are able to drink and keep liquids down, then give them a broad variety of bland soups and juices. Electrolytes come from real food.

    1. And are these ratios found in their perfect form for homeostasis in the human in natural foods such as soup? The answer is no. So while “real food” is great, something like pedialyte or this homemade version is PERFECTLY SAFE for 2-3 days of consumption. They aren’t living on it, they’re just trying to restore balance until the sickness is over.

      Guess what else Marilyn, your body knows what it needs and in what proportions so it will excrete what it doesn’t and keep what it does. So thanks for the education on how many electrolytes there are, were all very impressed, but this recipe is just fine to get a sick child out of the woods until they can eat “real food.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pay what you can: $̶5̶7̶