Drinking too much water too fast can be fatal: here are reasons why

Drinking too much water too fast can be fatal: here are reasons why

Sacramento : CA : USA | Dec 04, 2009 at 3:04 PM PST
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Beware of too much advice to drink a gallon of water, distilled or not, a day from health professionals that may not have been trained enough in what causes water drinking fatalities. If you drink more than 20 ounces of water or any other similar liquid in one hour, the liquid washes out vital electrolytes that could result in a fatality from sudden loss of electrolytes. Water drinking can be fatal.

See these article sites, "California Wrongful Death Trial Examines Water-Drinking Contest." Also helpful is the article, "[PDF] Water Intoxication in Psychiatric Patients in Singapore." And also see the article, "Water intoxication jennifer strange - surchur." Helpful also is the article, "Water intoxication at AllExperts."

You'll probably receive lots of advice from numerous holistic health practitioners to wash away colds and flu by drinking a gallon of water a day. But here's where the danger comes in. If you're sipping small amounts of water that contain electroltyes over a 24-hour period, and you consume a gallon of water, that's one story. Or if you're sitting in a 100 degree F. room or in the hot sun getting dehydrated in the middle of a heat wave or when you're on a desert, that's another story because you're body is losing water faster than you can replace it.

If you have the flu or a cold and need to replace water, do it slowly in small amounts. Instead of distilled water that does not replace electrolytes lost in diarrhea and vomiting if you have a winter retrovirus such as found in gastroenteritis, the Norwalk virus, or similar infections, sip small amounts of clean water over the entire day. Don't try to gulp down a gallon of water all at once, say within an hour or you'll lose so many electrolytes, it could be fatal for you. It's called water intoxication. Here are some diseases to watch for whether they are being treated with too much water intoxication, according to Wikipedia's Water Intoxication site.

Gastroenteritis, particularly in infants and children

The severe diarrhea and vomiting associated with gastroenteritis can result in very large electrolyte losses. Drinking water will replace lost water and avoid a dehydration, but if the person is unable to take any other drink or food then lost electrolytes will not be replaced, which can result in water intoxication. Replacement fluids for vomiting and diarrhea should be properly balanced to make them isotonic with the fluids lost in these conditions. Special formulations exist for oral rehydration therapy in these cases.

Low body mass (infants)

It can be very easy for children under 1 year old to absorb too much water, especially if the child is under nine months old. Because of their small body mass, it is easy to take in a large amount of water relative to

Endurance sports

Marathon runners are susceptible to water intoxication if they drink too much while running. This is caused when sodium levels drop below 135 mmol/L when athletes consume large amounts of fluid.

Marathon runners

Beware of dilutional hyponatremia from water intoxication--one cause of runners collapsing or showing confusion.

Heat stress

Any activity or situation that promotes heavy sweating can lead to water intoxication when water is consumed to replace lost fluids. This includes exertion to the point of sweating too much and trying to drink too much water to replace sweating. Watch out for overexertion.

Psychiatric conditions

Psychogenic polydipsia is the psychiatric condition in which patients feel compelled to drink large quantities of water.

Kidney disorders that change electrolyte balance

You may have an undiagnosed disorder that affects your electrolyte balance, especially disorders of the kidneys.


Diuretic therapy, mineralocorticoid deficiency, osmotic diuresis (as in the hyperglycemia of uncontrolled diabetes), and the multiple disorders associated with AIDS are other common causes of electrolyte imbalance, although they do not always produce water intoxication.

Intravenous water feeding of an unconscious person

According to the Wikipedia site, when an unconscious person is being fed intravenously (for example, total parenteral nutrition or via a nasogastric tube) the fluids given must be carefully balanced in composition to match fluids and electrolytes lost. These fluids are typically hypertonic, and so water is often co-administered. If the electrolytes are not monitored (even in an ambulatory patient) either hypernatremia or hyponatremia may result.

Certain medications can cause electroltye imbalance by causing rapid fluid processing

According to the Wikipedia site on water intoxication, some neurological/psychiatric medications have been found to cause hyponatremia in some patients. Patients with diabetes insipidus are particularly vulnerable due to rapid fluid processing. Check fact sheet inserts on side effects on all medications regarding how the medicine affects electrolyte balance or whether side effects include rapid fluid processing.

The basic message here is that water intoxication fatalities are generally not common knowledge among those without medical training in how much or how little water it takes to upset electrolyte imbalance leading to possible water intoxication fatalities. Get informed. And for holistic healthcare practitioners of all types and levels of education, let your clients know how much water drinking changes the balance of electrolytes in their bodies.

Instead of simply telling people who have colds or flu to drink a certain amount of water, find out information on what that amount of water you're telling people to drink might do to their bodies. Is that amount safe? What is safe for the individual with that person's conditions? How does that person's kidneys process water drinking? Most doctors know that drinking more than 20 ounces of water in one hour will wash out the electrolytes and start the problem of imbalance leading to water intoxication and fatality as more water is consumed.

Some people will survive, and some won't at different levels of water drinking. How do you know what's safe for that person you're advising to drink water? On the other hand, pediatric electrolyte replacements for babies with diarrhea and vomiting or other dehydration issues are sold in most supermarkets. Be aware of what the electrolyte balance is or should be for any individual you're helping.

Clean water is good, but in safe amounts. The same can be said for balancing the electrolytes--in amounts safe for that individual. Always check with your doctor before taking on any natural remedies or help for conditions such as colds, flu, diarrhea, acid reflux, and other issues usually treated outside doctor's offices with diet changes.


Water intoxication - wikidoc

Autopsy case report of a rare acute iatrogenic water intoxication ...

Water intoxication at AllExperts Water intoxication jennifer strange - surchur - a jury has awarded $16.57 million in damages to the family of a woman who died of water intoxication after competing in a water-drinking contest.

AnneHart is based in Sacramento, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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