Scientists say a cheap mix of water, sugar and salt that has saved millions of lives overseas could save American children too if doctors only knew about it and insurance covered it.

The solutions, called oral rehydration therapy or ORT, prevent the dangerous dehydration that diarrhea can cause in children."This isn't a glamorous topic, but it's the sort of everyday need that would save children's lives and save millions of dollars," said Dr. Alan Meyers of Boston City Hospital. "We can't let this get overlooked."

Viruses, bacteria and parasites cause diarrhea in 16 million U.S. children under age 5 every year, with most cases occurring in January. For the vast majority, it's a simple illness that is over quickly.

But 3 million children worldwide die every year from diarrhea-caused dehydration. In the United States, it kills up to 600 children and hospitalizes 360,000 annually.

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ORT doesn't stop diarrhea, it just prevents dehydration. Its special sugars allow the intestine to absorb the solution's salt and potassium, which then trap water.

In fact, doctors say using anti-diarrhea medicines in children can be bad because they prevent the body from flushing out the diarrhea germs.

For years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has exported ORT solutions to developing countries. The United Nations credits them with saving 1 million lives a year.

The solutions are for sale in U.S. drugstores, too, but few doctors and parents know about them.

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