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Water Intoxication Symptoms

Water Intoxication Symptoms

Water intoxication occurs due to drinking excessive amounts of water. Drinking abnormally large quantities of water can disturb the electrolyte balance, thereby affecting the health of a person in an adverse manner. The following write-up provides information on this condition.
Kalpana Kumari
Last Updated: May 13, 2018
It's a well-known fact that drinking adequate amounts of water is essential for healthy functioning of the body. The human body has its own mechanism of regulating the balance of fluids and electrolytes. Kidneys are paired organs that are mainly responsible for maintaining the balance of fluids, as well as electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, etc. Sodium plays a vital role in regulating the fluid balance. Water intoxication, which is medically referred to as dilutional hyponatremia, is a condition wherein the concentration of sodium in blood becomes low due to the consumption of excessive amounts of water. Drinking large amounts of water during endurance activities (marathons, triathlons, or workouts that cause loss of sodium due to excessive sweating) can make one susceptible to water intoxication.

When blood concentration of sodium falls below 135 millimoles per liter or 0.4 ounces per gallon, the level of salt in our blood becomes low. Under such circumstances, water begins to seep into the cells. This process could lead to massive cellular damage.

The most obvious cause of water intoxication is drinking very large amounts of water.
Drinking too much water in a short span of time can also be a contributing factor.
Use of diuretics could make one susceptible to water intoxication.
Participating in water or juice drinking competitions can make you gulp large amounts of water, creating an imbalance in the sodium levels.
Other causes of water intoxication are hypothyroidism, vomiting or diarrhea, dehydration, etc.
Liver cirrhosis, kidney failure, and heart failure could make one susceptible to water intoxication.

The most common symptom of water intoxication is nausea. The person will feel like vomiting, because his stomach will not able to hold the excessive quantity of water.
Slurred speech, weakness, fatigue, restlessness, etc., might be experienced by the affected individual.
Excessive water intake could lead to bloating.
In severe cases wherein the brain is affected, one may experience disorientation and confusion.
Muscle cramps may be experienced, especially in case of athletes.
Seizures, coma, respiratory arrest, swelling of the brain, and even death may occur in extreme cases.

Symptoms in Babies
Change in the mental status of the child, which may be characterized by unusual drowsiness, inattentiveness and irritability.
Another prominent symptom is facial swelling or puffiness.
Their vision may get blurry. They may experience symptoms such as muscle cramps, twitching, irregular breathing, etc.
There may be a slight drop in the baby's body temperature.
In case of small children, common symptoms include fatigue, headache, and confusion.

If an infant is exhibiting the aforementioned symptoms, consult a pediatrician at the earliest.

Treatment Options
Medical attention must be sought immediately. 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 the process of water retention. However, if you notice early signs of water intoxication, you can do a few things to prevent the condition from getting even worse. These include:

Restrict your intake of water or fluids.
Consume some salty food items. Some examples of such foods are tomato juice, pretzels, cheese, dill pickle, and chicken noodle soup.
Take over-the-counter diuretics. They increase urination, and thus will help in flushing out excess water from the body.
Avoid taking any analgesic or medicines like ibuprofen and aspirin.
Babies get sufficient water from breast milk or formula. Till a certain age, giving plain water to infants is not necessary.

On a concluding note, drink water only in required amounts. When you are performing heavy and strenuous exercises or running long distances, have small sips of water or increase the interval between two water intakes. A sports drink (energy drinks) is a better substitute for water in such cases as it contains electrolytes. This will maintain the level of electrolytes in your body. Make it a point to drink adequate amounts of water to prevent loss of fluids or dehydration. Drinking water to satisfy thirst will prevent water intoxication, as well as dehydration.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.