A Sip of Water, a Taste of Sweetness

It’s really cool being a nurse, often stressful, never boring, seeing the science of nursing and medicine evolve. My favorite technological advances are those that make you slap your head and say — duh. As in, why didn’t someone think of this before?

Here are two life-saving inventions that have been around for a few years, and one new study that points the way to fast emergency relief for sick children…

Plumpynut is a remarkably simple concoction: it is basically made of peanut butter, powdered milk, powdered sugar, and enriched with vitamins and minerals. It tastes like a peanut butter paste. It is very sweet, and because of that kids cannot get enough of it.

The formula was developed by a nutritionist. It doesn’t need refrigeration, water, or cooking; mothers simply squeeze out the paste. Many children can even feed themselves. Each serving is the equivalent of a glass of milk and a multivitamin.

A clump of peanut butter in a plastic bag. This could easily be made locally for long-term response to malnutrition. The next is high-tech to manufacture, but simple to use…

Half of the world’s poor suffer from waterborne disease, and nearly 6,000 people – mainly children – die each day by consuming unsafe drinking water.
LifeStraw® water purifiers have been developed as a practical way of preventing disease and saving lives, as well as achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe water by the year 2015.

And this is really good news

PARIS (AFP) A teaspoon of moistened sugar under the tongue could save the lives of thousands of children suffering from hypoglycemia caused by malaria, a researcher who conducted clinical trials said Thursday.
Malaria claims more than a million lives a year — 800,000 of them African children aged under five — and sickens hundreds of millions more, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The rapid drop in blood sugar that frequently accompanies severe malaria kills many children in remote parts of Africa before they can reach a clinic for an intravenous dose of glucose, the proven treatment for hypoglycaemia.

I.V. therapy saves lives, but needs skills to administer and is not without risk, especially in a place where resources are scarce. The first action to take when you suspect someone is dropping their blood sugar is to get them some sugar fast. You can, and should, try this at home. The African research findings support a fast response to low blood sugar and help save I.V. supplies for other needs. We already have cheap, small and accurate blood glucose meters that can be used in clinics to monitor the child’s response, or lacking that, just watch their condition. Cool.

I had wondered why people in parts of the world where diarrhea kills children had no folk medicine for it. But I was talking to a nurses aid who had been a medic in Liberia, and she said that they did, in fact, make homemade rehydrating drinks, from fruit and sugar and salt. This totally makes sense.

Growing up in the Rapture-ready 70’s gives you a weird outlook, a kind of survivalist sense. I always wonder how you take care of people without the machines that go beep. A spoonful of sugar to save a life. That’s cool.


6 thoughts on “A Sip of Water, a Taste of Sweetness

  1. The Lifestraw is most amazing — a fabulous invention for saving children from a well-known killer. Thanks for educating Kmareka readers on this, Nancy.

  2. thank you so much. the great thing about taking nursing courses is that all of them are useful, even if you change your mind you will have some solid credits. the profession allows for so many different kinds of work, and it’s one of the few that is not losing employment now. good luck to her.

  3. This “plumpynut”sounds great,but are severe peanut allergies as prevalent in underdeveloped countries as they are here?
    The Lifestraw sounds like there’s no downside.It could be used domestically when there are large scale disasters that interfere with normal clean water supplies.

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