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What Is Water Intoxication And It’s Causes

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Today we are going to talk about “water”, the most important element on the earth. Can you imagine your life without water ? Can you ? Of course no one can ? A human being can not survive even twelve hours without water it is that much important. From our school days we have been taught about the significance of water a lot of times. Water is just used not only for drinking, it is much more than that. We cook, clean, wash and bath with the help of water. We cannot imagine a single day without water. Do you wonder what water is made of ? Yeah… we have been taught it is H20 but what really is water ? Have you ever got crazy idea like this I am having ? No, no one can have. But just think for a second how interesting would it be to know about the water entirely. So, let’s do some research and study shall we? Do not worry we have done It for you!

According to Wikipedia, water is a transparent and nearly colorless substance that is the main constitute of Earth’s streams, lakes, and oceans, and the fluids of the most living organisms. Water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms, that are connected by covalent bonds. As we all know that water covers 70 percent of the earth. But access of anything is dangerous even water! Access of water is known as water intoxication. Slow down we are going to tell you everything related to water intoxication.

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What is water intoxication?

Paracelsus, the 16th century scientist who was known largely for establishing the role of chemistry in medicine  came up with the concept that everything can be poisonous depending on the size of that thing. But modern chemistry differs to believe. This concept is still true for the most important element and that is water.

A video released on YouTube by American Chemistry Society,  informs us that it takes about six litres of water to kill a person about 165- pound  person. Surprisingly, a lot of deaths happens due to water intoxication. Water is essential for life but when a person drinks too much water their blood becomes dangerously diluted of salts and that causes a condition called hyponatremia.

What is Hyponatremia?

Hyponatremia is a condition which occurs when the level of sodium in a person’s body  ( blood ) is extremely low. See sodium is an electrolyte which helps to regulate the amount of water in and around your cells. When a person drink a lot of water your body water level rises and your cell begins to swell. This swelling can cause some serious health issues , from mild to life-threatening.

Causes of hyponatremia

Following are the main causes of hyponatremia:

  • Pneumonia.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Brain tumor.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Heart failure.
  • Liver disease and
  • Hypertension.
  • Other symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion and lethargy.

How to treat hyponatremia at home?

You can treat or take care of hyponatremia at home by doing little changes in your diet.

Symptoms of water intoxication?

Before knowing the symptoms of water intoxication you should know that there are two types of it. One there is acute water intoxication and second there is chronic of it. Both have some differences. In acute water intoxication blood sodium level drop under 130 mmoI \ L within 48 hours and in chronic intoxication it takes more than 48 hours.

Early symptoms

Early and first symptoms of water intoxication are as the following:

  • Headache.
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Restlessness and irritability.
  • Light headedness and  dizziness.
  • Finding it hard to concentrate.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle weakness and unstable gait.
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Late symptoms of water intoxication

  • Muscle cramps, tremor and shaking.
  • Swelling of the hands and the feet, or abdomen especially in alcoholics.
  • Drowsiness and blurred vision.
  • Other symptoms are common and can be hard to detect but these include confusion, unusual behavior, agitation, hallucinations, and delirium.
  • When you cough blood comes up.
  • Less urination.
  • Seizures.
  • Unusual grimacing.
  • Collapse.

When the sodium level drops immediate the more severe the signs will be. Following are the signs:

  • Sudden increase in body weight ( can be up to several kilograms ), but this does not happen always.
  • Dilated pupils on both sides.
  • Slow heart rate ( bradycardia ).
  • Increased frequency of breathing.
  • Decreased or increased blood pressure.
  • Hypothermia.
  • Rigid posture will develop with arms bent inward toward the body and hands.

There are some short term effects of water intoxication on a person body and these are the following:

  • Brain swelling which is known as cerebral edema in medical language.
  • Lung swelling which is known as pulmonary edema in medical language.
  • Muscle breakdown.
  • What is muscle breakdown?
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And, there are some long term complications also which comes with water intoxication and these are:

  • Mental retardation.
  • Diabetes insipidus.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Cerebral palsy.
  • Gait abnormality.

Factors that increase the risk of water intoxication include:

  • Female sex.
  • Low body weight in infants.
  • Low sodium intake.
  • Poorly controlled diabetes .
  • Certain drugs.
  • Water retention because of the following reasons:
  • Syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone in which kidneys cannot function properly and are able to excrete excessive fluids which further leads to following health problems:

1) Severe pain.

2) Stress.

3) Cancer.

4) Certain brain and lung disorder.

Water intoxication in Infants

Water intoxication in baby or infants can happen to a lot of reasons and finding about it is even more tough. Following are the symptoms that it happens to infants.

  • Irritability and lethargy.
  • Vomiting.
  • Excessive urination ( 6 to 8 wet diapers in a single day ).
  • Swelling around  baby eyes.
  • Abnormal sweating.
  • Low body temperature.

There are many causes of water intoxication in infants and these are the following:

  1. Giving water to baby: Some parents give their baby dilute baby formula with water which is wrong and others give water to their baby in between formula.
  2. Maternal over hydration during labor: Yes, water intoxication can also happen in infants due to this reason. This type of case was in news. In 2008, in UK, a mother drank three to four litres of water in a eight hour period during labour. And the baby ( boy ) developed seizures after three hours of birth, the baby sodium level was 124 mmoI\ L  normal is between 135 – 145 mmoI/l. Then the infant was treated with fluid restriction.

Water drinking contests

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Yes, water drinking contest are also a main reason which contributes to the number of deaths by water intoxication. In January 2007, a woman named Jennifer Strange died of acute water intoxication, as she participated in a water drinking contest. She drank seven litres of water because of which she died on the spot.

Another case in which a twelve year old girl in Sweden died after drinking six litres of water within few hours of playing poker. She died after few days.

“Water diet”  for weight loss

What is a water diet?

The water diet is in which an individual have to drink at least two litres of water in  a single day. As it have many benefits like improved blood circulation but this can lead to water intoxication.

Exercise associated hyponatremia and encephalopathy in marathon or triathlon runners

Runners can develop hyponatremia if they drink excessive amounts of water typically more than 1.5 litres of water or other beverages. Other causes and risk factors for exercise associated hyponatremia:

  • Hard exercising lasting more than four hours.
  • Hot weather which leads to sweating and more water intake.


Several medications which results in water retention or sodium excretion can also result in water intoxication. Following is the list of that medications which can lead to both:

  • Antidepressants such as SSRI’s, TCA’s and monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
  • Anticonvulsants such as sodium valproate, carbamazepine and phenytoin.
  • Antidiabetics such as chlorpropamide.

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  • Cholestrol lowering medicines.
  • Opioids such as morphine.

How much water is enough to drink in a day?

Sixty percent of human body is composed of water, just water. We lose water through urine and sweat. There are many opinions on how much water an individual should drink per day. According to the health department eight glasses of water is enough which is equal to two litres of water. But some people or guru’s think that sipping water constantly is important it does not matter if you are thirsty or not.

How can you prevent water intoxication?

There is no such way to prevent water treatment but you can do certain things to help yourself like following:

Points to remember

  • Drink maximum eight glasses of water per day! Not more than that.
  • Do not believe random health tips do proper research first.
  • Do not ignore little things like frequent headaches, vomiting and sudden weight gain. We mostly ignore these things but they can lead to some serious health troubles.
  • During a marathon, trialthlon or other endurance event, drink only when you are thirsty and eat salt containing food.
  • You can also eat salt containing taffies etcetra etcetra.

Water intoxication treatment

Different water intoxication are treated differently. For example when you have symptoms like seizures then you should restrict water and salt intake this state is known as hypervolemia.

And you should also take salt tablets in hypovolemia and a high protein diet. When you have chronic hyponatremia then it should be treated slowly otherwise some serious neurological complications can arise such as central pontine myelinolysis.


An MBA, Entrepreneur and Blogger. Aim is to become a millionaire. ;)

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