Water overdose, or water intoxication, can dilute electrolytes and nutrients in the bloodstream, resulting in hyponatremia. Excessive water consumption can cause cells to swell, leading to brain pressure and death. Symptoms include headache, fatigue, confusion, and muscle weakness. Seeking medical help is necessary for treatment.
Water overdose, also known as water intoxication, refers to potentially life-threatening dilution of blood flow. Although water is one of the key elements of life and contributes approximately 2/3 of the total content of the human body, excessive consumption in too short a period of time can excessively dilute the concentration of electrolytes and nutrients in the bloodstream. This condition is reflected in the medical name “hyponatremia,” which results in an abnormally low amount of sodium in the blood. It should be noted that water intoxication is a severe version of hyponatremia, however, and that the medical term can also refer to non-lethal levels of sodium in blood vapor, anything less than 0.4 ounces per gallon (135 millimoles per liter). .
When the rate at which water is consumed exceeds the rate at which water is used by the body or removed by the kidneys, a water overdose occurs. A normal, healthy kidney will process 0.21 to 0.26 gallons (800 to 1,000 milliliters) of water every hour. During times of intense physical activity or stress, however, the pituitary gland will excrete increased amounts of vasopressin, a hormone that can reduce the kidneys’ removal of water by 90%. This means that even if they sweat quite heavily, a person may actually be able to consume the amount of water their kidneys would normally process in an hour and still have a net fluid gain.
The greatest danger to the body from water overdose comes from osmosis, the natural movement of a liquid from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration. When the water-sodium balance in the bloodstream is off, the body uses osmosis to correct it by exchanging water with the body’s cells through the cell walls. In the event of an overdose of water, this process causes the cells to swell with water. For most cells, the walls simply stretch and there’s no big deal, but brain cells don’t have room to expand. This results in increased pressure on the brain and possible death.
Water overdose symptoms include headache, drowsiness or fatigue, irritability, and confusion. Additionally, a victim may experience unexplained numbness in the limbs, cramps, general muscle weakness, and even difficulty breathing. Additional symptoms depend on which parts of the brain are pressed, but can affect the heart and pulse as well as motor functions. As with any condition, the best plan is to be aware of your behavior and condition and how it relates to your symptoms.
Many of the symptoms of water overdose are shared by conditions such as heat stroke and dehydration, so assuming symptoms indicate a water overdose without taking careful consideration of recent water consumption can have serious consequences. Immediate cessation of excessive water consumption may be sufficient to stop water overdose if caught early enough and diuretics may help in later stages. Before taking any but the most basic actions to counter a water overdose, you should seek professional medical help, especially in view of the potential risk of misdiagnosis by and amateurs.