Sometimes, you just can’t quench your thirst. Glass after glass of water, and you’re still thirsty. You might think that it’s ok to just keep gulping it down – but did you know you can actually drink too much water?
Overdrinking or water intoxication is known as hyponatremia. This is where an individual drinks an extreme amount of water in a very short time. For example, athletes after a particularly hard race. Drinking an excessive amount of water can actually damage your body. You will have heard for years how important it is to stay hydrated, but you might not have heard of the effects of drinking too much water.
The reason why drinking too much water can be seriously dangerous, and even fatal is because drinking excessive amounts of water can cause the level of sodium in your blood to drastically reduce. Sodium is an essential electrolyte and is responsible for maintaining the balance of water in and around your cells. It is also responsible for helping your nerves and muscles to function properly, and without, the body can start to shut down.
Fortunately, cases of hyponatremia are extremely rare. The average young person would not be at risk from it. However, babies and young children sometimes have issues with it as their bodies cannot handle much water due to their size. This is why they are encouraged to drink milk or formula instead.
The symptoms related to water intoxication sometimes make it hard to tell what is wrong. This is owing to the fact they can often be mistaken for heatstroke or exhaustion. Symptoms of hyponatremia include; headaches, feeling hot, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. If you don’t seek medical assistance right away, the later effects of hyponatremia can even include seizures, swelling on the brain and even coma.
Experts say it is very hard to fall victim to water intoxication. This is because your body would usually stop you from drinking at the point you feel uncomfortable! It’s also likely that you would start to urinate or sweat out the fluid you have consumed, therefore lowering the water content in your body. Really, the only time you should worry is if you drink several litres at one time. At this point, you’re drinking more than your kidneys can filter and you can urinate out.
So, don’t stress! As long as you’re hydrated and drinking regularly – experts say you’ll be fine.