Water intoxication: What happens when you drink too much water?
What tips the balance from drinking that produces impairment to drinking that puts one’s life in jeopardy varies among individuals. Age, sensitivity to alcohol (tolerance), gender, speed of drinking, medications you are taking, and amount of food eaten can all be factors. Athletes, older adults, and pregnant women, for example, may need to drink more water each day. This condition is also more likely in people with kidney or liver disease. That being said, the amount of water you need to drink can vary and should roughly equal the amount your kidneys release.
To avoid overhydrating, try to drink no more than about 9–13 cups of fluids per day. If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, CHF, or kidney disease, talk with your doctor about the best treatments. While there are different guidelines, they generally recommend drinking oz of fluid about two-three hours before exercise or physical activity. A doctor will ask about your medical history to determine if your symptoms are caused by water toxicity, hyponatremia, or another condition. In both cases, overhydration can lead to water toxicity, also known as water poisoning.
There’s no set amount of water that’s considered ‘too much’
In healthy people, athletes are at the highest risk for overhydration. When the amount of sodium (salt) becomes too diluted, you develop hyponatremia. When the sodium levels in your body are greatly reduced, fluids move inside your cells, leading to inflammation. https://soberhome.net/ “Those with heart, kidney, or liver disease have an increased risk of hyperhydration,” Spano said. “In addition, it is more common in [people] consuming water only or very low sodium beverages while competing in prolonged endurance events.”
“Low blood sodium can be very dangerous, even resulting in death.” If a person needs 2,000 calories per day, they should also consume 2,000 milliliters of water per day. Finally, according to one report, a 9-year-old girl developed water intoxication after consuming 3.6 liters of water in 1–2 hours. Water intoxication and prolonged hyponatremia also occurred in an otherwise healthy 22-year-old prisoner who drank 6 liters of water in 3 hours. Because he was improperly rehydrated, his sodium levels fell below 130 mmol/l. The runner then developed water on the brain, known as hydrocephalus, and a hernia in his brain stem, which caused his death.
How can you prevent overhydration?
Children and adolescents may have lower requirements than adults. Both Spano and Detroyer agreed that, for the average person, dehydration is a greater concern than hyperhydration. “It totally varies by the person, activity level, environment, medications and more,” Spano said. There’s no set amount that’s broadly defined as dangerous for all people in all situations, both Spano and Detroyer confirmed. She also noted that hyperhydration may occur in eating disorder patients if they drink lots of water to artificially increase their weight. But you can also drink too much water — and, just like dehydration, overhydration can be deadly, too.
- This occurs when you drink more water than your kidneys can remove from your urine.
- But if you drink too much water, you can dilute the levels of sodium in your body to dangerously low levels.
- Water intoxication most commonly affects people participating in sporting events or endurance training, or people who have various mental health conditions.
- Drinking such large quantities of alcohol can overwhelm the body’s ability to break down and clear alcohol from the bloodstream.
- This leads to rapid increases in BAC and significantly impairs brain and other bodily functions.
Even if the person survives, an alcohol overdose like this can lead to long-lasting brain damage. In hyponatremia, the sodium level drops below normal, and your cells swell up with water, leading to a range of health issues. A rapid drop in sodium levels (a.k.a. “acute hyponatremia”) can make brain cells swell rapidly and may lead to coma and death, according to the Mayo Clinic. To avoid water intoxication, some sources recommend drinking no more than 0.8 to 1.0 liters of water per hour.
As Blood Alcohol Concentration Increases—So Do the Risks
People at risk of death from water intoxication tend to be participating in endurance sporting events or military training. A person who is doing neither is unlikely to die from drinking too much water. Water intoxication is particularly common among endurance athletes.
- The symptoms of water intoxication are general — they can include confusion, disorientation, nausea, and vomiting.
- Without treatment, you can experience seizures, enter into a coma, and ultimately die.
- With no gag reflex, a person who drinks to the point of passing out is in danger of choking on their vomit and dying from a lack of oxygen (i.e., asphyxiation).
- Some doctors recommend that the number of daily cups of water a child drinks should equal their age.
- If sodium levels fall below 135 millimoles per liter (mmol/l), doctors refer to the issue as hyponatremia.
It can happen if a person drinks a lot of water without correctly accounting for electrolyte losses. Water intoxication most commonly affects people participating in sporting events or endurance training, or people who have various mental health conditions. The Institute of Medicine has established guidelines for adequate water intake.
Too much water can cause dangerously low sodium levels
But Detroyer added that she’s seen some cases in non-athletes who simply drink large quantities of water without realizing the risks. “That’s the most common situation, when people are out and exercising a lot and they don’t realize how much fluid they’ve taken in,” Detroyer said. INSIDER spoke with Spano and registered dietitian Mary Jane Detroyer to learn more about drinking too much water (and when you should worry about it). Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available. The following are the answers to some common questions about overhydration.
Research shows that teens and college-age young adults often engage in binge drinking and high-intensity drinking. Drinking such large quantities of alcohol can overwhelm the body’s ability to break down and clear alcohol from the bloodstream. This leads to rapid increases in BAC and significantly impairs brain and other bodily functions. It is dangerous to assume that an unconscious person will be fine by sleeping it off.
How much should I drink?
The right amount differs, depending on factors such as body weight, level of physical activity, the climate, and whether they are breastfeeding. It is most common among people with schizophrenia, eco sober house rating but it can also arise in people with affective disorders, psychosis, and personality disorders. This can affect the brain stem and cause central nervous system dysfunction.
Death from drinking too much water in healthy people is rare, but it can happen, especially in athletes. Usually, water toxicity occurs along with an underlying medical condition that causes the kidneys to retain fluid. Most people, especially those who exercise in hot weather, are concerned about not drinking enough water. This is when your body’s water is more than your kidneys can excrete.
Ingesting alcohol and other drugs together intensifies their individual effects and could produce an overdose with even moderate amounts of alcohol. Drinking too much and too quickly can lead to significant impairments in motor coordination, decision-making, impulse control, and other functions, increasing the risk of harm. Continuing to drink despite clear signs of significant impairments can result in an alcohol overdose.
Overhydration and water intoxication happen when a person drinks more water than their kidneys can get rid of via urine. There’s no official guideline for the amount of water you should drink. That’s because everyone’s personal fluid needs vary based on exercise, climate, health conditions, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, according to the Mayo Clinic. “An excess of total body water may result in cell swelling and hyponatremia, or low blood sodium,” Spano said.