Your body is made up of over 60% water and, as a result, relies on you drinking a lot of water to survive. There’s no denying that drinking enough water is essential to maintain a healthy life and help your body remove wastes in the form of urine, sweat, and bowel movements. Furthermore, drinking an adequate amount of water also helps regulate your body temperature and perform regular bodily functions. However, with all the benefits of drinking water, it is possible for you to drink too much water and it can even turn fatal.
Throughout this article, we will discuss in detail:
- water intoxication,
- the dangers of drinking too much water,
- how much water is too much water, and
- how you can tell if you are drinking too much water
What Is Water Intoxication?
You might also know water intoxication by some other names like water poisoning, hyperhydration, or overhydration. It’s a potentially fatal state which occurs by consuming more than a normal amount of water.
If you drink too much water, the number of electrolytes in your body is pushed outside the safe limits. Electrolytes are responsible for the amount of liquid flowing in and out of cells.
When electrolytes are reduced in the body due to high water content, excessive amounts of water start flowing inside the cells.
This process causes your body cells to swell. When this happens to brain cells, it can result in fatal effects.
It’s not common to drink such an abnormal amount of water under normal conditions. Almost all the deaths resulting from water intoxication in normal human beings occur in extreme circumstances.
These circumstances include water-drinking competitions or during excessively long exercise sessions when an abnormal amount of water is consumed.
What Are The Dangers of Drinking Too Much Water?
The initial problems that water intoxication can cause to your body are headache, nausea, and vomiting. When the circumstances get severe, more problematic issues might emerge.
These include an increase in blood pressure levels, double vision, confusion, cramping and muscle weakness, difficulty in breathing, and drowsiness.
Longer exposure to water intoxication can cause severe central nervous system disorders as well. In the worst-case scenario, it can permanently damage your brain, cause seizures, a coma, or even cause death.
It’s not normally possible to consume so much water to be proven fatal, but there have been death reports due to water intoxication in the past.
There are, however, cases of deaths in soldiers and athletes due to the over-consumption of water.
How Much Water Is Too Much Water?
Water intoxication doesn’t only depend on drinking too much water, it also depends on how much time you take to consume that amount of water.
Drinking the same amount of water in two different time durations can draw the line between normal consumption of water and water intoxication.
When your kidneys operate as intended, they cannot dispose of more than 0.8 to 1.0 liters (27.05 to 33.81 oz) of water per hour. Therefore, to protect yourself from water intoxication, you should not drink more than 0.8-1.0 liters (27.05 to 33.81 oz) of water on average, per hour.
Typically, humans don’t often consume that much water on a regular basis. So for the average individual, water intoxication will never be an issue.
But, be sure that you are aware of the symptoms and the serious medical effects that can result from water intoxication.
There are a few simple guidelines that you should consider in order to stay adequately hydrated and keep your water intake under control.
- Drink water as soon as you feel thirsty,
- When you stop feeling thirsty, stop drinking, and
- When exposed to high temperatures or vigorous exercise, be sure to drink extra water to compensate for the lost fluid
How Can You Tell When You Might Be Drinking Too Much Water?
In case you haven’t been keeping track of your water consumption, and you believe you drink too much water, let’s help you understand some signs of overconsumption of water.
1. Swollen Feet And Hands
If you drink too much water, your body’s sodium levels are disturbed.
As a result, fluids rush inside the cells to help balance these levels and as a consequence, your hands and feet end up swelling larger than usual.
Potassium helps your muscles contract and relax. When you drink too much water and pee too much, your body loses potassium.
As a result, you can end up getting cramps in many of your body muscles.
3. Excessive Peeing
Have you been peeing more than 7 times a day? It might be time to lower your daily water consumption.
If you wake up to pee again and again during the night, consider lowering your water intake before going to bed.
While a clear pee helps to show that you are adequately hydrated, if you are constantly peeing, it might be a sign that you are drinking too much water.
Aim to pee at regular intervals throughout the day and to have that pee be a light yellow color.
Examples of Drinking Too Much Water
Below are two fatal examples of water intoxication and the seriousness of the matter.
Death Of A 64 Year Old Woman
There’s a fatal water intoxication death case of a 64-year-old woman reported by the US National Library of Medicine. The night before her death, she started drinking excessive amounts of water.
Her water consumption was estimated to be 30 to 40 glasses of water. She became hysterical, saying that she hadn’t been consuming enough water.
The next day, she passed away, and her body was sent for postmortem. As there was no other evidence of fatal diseases, it was given that the cause of her death was acute water intoxication.
Death Of An 18 Year Old
In July 1997, four cases of water intoxication were reported out of which one was fatal. It involved the death of an 18-year-old soldier who had a clean history in terms of medication.
He drank three quarts (96 oz) of water before arriving at the rifle range on a very hot day. And he drank another five quarts (160 oz) of water before 11 a.m.
After reporting a headache, nausea, and vomiting, he went to rest and drank another two (62 oz) quarts of water.
When the symptoms didn’t fade away, he consumed around ten more quarts (320 oz) of water within two hours. His sodium level fell to a hazardous 121 mmol/L and passed away as a result of a build-up of fluids around the brain.
As a reference, standard sodium levels are typically between 1.36 and 1.45 mmol/L.
There’s no doubt that water is one of the most important elements for your survival and wellbeing. To remain adequately hydrated, it is important to replenish the fluids your body has lost. However, like everything in life, moderation is key.
When individuals consume more than 0.8 to 1.0 liters (27.05 to 33.81 oz) on average, per hour for a period of time, the consequences can be fatal.
Water intoxication is a serious medical condition. If you or someone you know is developing symptoms of water intoxication, seek medical attention immediately.
For any comments, questions or feedback you might have, please send us a message through our contact form.
Be sure to consult your health care professional with any medical questions. Similarly, the information found in this article should not be considered medical advice.
Facts for this article are referenced from credible sources. For further information, please read the referenced articles from the following organizations:
- Mayo Clinic – Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?
- Medical News Today – What Happens If You Drink Too Much Water?
- Healthline – How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day?
- US National Library Of Medicine – Fatal Water Intoxication
- Bustle – 7 Signs You’re Drinking Too Much Water
- Military Medicine – Death By Water Intoxication