Too much water, or water intoxication, as is mostly referred to, in the body will dilute the sodium present in your blood. This condition prevents the body cells from functioning normally. It is asymptomatic in early stage but if left untreated, can prove to be fatal.
Human body has a balanced method of processing and excreting water. This fact is evident from urination and perspiration. This process is maintained when you take water according to your body's requirement. Over consumption of water may dilute the concentration of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium in blood. Such a condition of abnormally low concentration of electrolytes in blood is known as water intoxication. It is medically termed as hyponatremia. It's also known as water-poisoning or hyper-hydration. It occurs when the loss of water and salt from the body is replenished only with water. Over-consumption of water pushes out the normal balance of electrolytes of safe limits. It is very dangerous for human body as the cells start malfunctioning. Its occurrence is quite common in athletes drinking water during endurance sports. Water intoxication has always been a matter of concern during military training. The early stage water intoxication symptoms are subtle and are somewhat similar to diarrhea. To get a better understanding of water intoxication, let's start with its causes.
Water Intoxication Causes
- The most obvious cause of water intoxication is drinking too much water or drinking water in amounts that is much more than the actual requirement.
- One major cause of water intoxication is, taking medicines such as antidepressants.
- Other causes of water intoxication are hypothyroidism, vomiting or diarrhea, dehydration and cortisone deficiency (as is the case with Addison's disease).
- Diseases such as cirrhosis, kidney and heart failure increase the risk of water intoxication symptoms occurrence.
- The very first symptom of water intoxication is nausea. You feel to puke, because your stomach is not able to hold the excessive quantity of water.
- The next symptom of water intoxication in adults is having slurred speech. You feel like speaking with a thick tongue.
- You will feel weak and tired.
- Other prominent symptoms of water intoxication include headache and bloating. Excessive water, disturbs the digestive tract and leads to bloating.
- You may start hallucinating. This is mainly because excessive water in the body, affects brain cells as well. Brain cells tend to swell. Affected brain, further leads to disorientation and confusion.
- Muscle cramps
- Seizures, coma, respiratory arrest, swelling of the brain and even death may occur in extreme cases.
- One of the prominent water intoxication symptoms in infants is facial swelling or puffiness.
- Other noticeable symptoms of water intoxication in infants are, changes in the mental status of the infant such as unusual irritability or drowsiness.
- You will also notice a slight drop in the baby's body temperature.
- In case of small children, fatigue, headache and confusion are the common symptoms.
There is hardly anything that can be done to treat water intoxication at home. Medical attention is a must. In hospitals, vasopressin receptor antagonists are prescribed for treating water intoxication. Vasopressin receptor is one of the cell surface receptors, which plays an important physiological role in your body's retention of water. However, if you notice early signs of water intoxication, you can do a few things to prevent worsening of the condition. Restrict your intake of water or fluid. Take some salty foods. Some examples of such foods are tomato juice, pretzels, cheese, a dill pickle, and chicken noodle soup. Take over-the-counter available diuretics. They increase urination, and thus will help you in flushing out excess water from the body. Avoid taking any analgesic and medicines like ibuprofen and aspirin.
Babies get sufficient water from breast milk or formula. Giving plane water to infants is not necessary. It often leads to dilution of the sodium in infant's blood, which in turn results in brain activity alternation and occurrence of seizures. However, consulting a doctor in cases of both the adults and infants is necessary to rule out any further complications, resulting due to water intoxication symptoms in them.
Water is very necessary for life but its excess can be fatal. Therefore, drink water only in required amounts. Keep the intake amount of water under check. It should not over-exceed the amount of water lost from your body. When you are performing heavy and strenuous exercises or running long distances, drink sports drink. They contain electrolytes. Hence, the normal levels of electrolytes remain in safe limits in your body. Do not confuse water intoxication with dehydration. The latter is, only loss of fluids. However, drinking water to satisfy thirst will prevent both water intoxication and dehydration.