Water Intoxication: A Tragic Yet Avoidable Death

A recent radio show contest drew national attention in the U.S. when one of the contestants died as a result of hypothermia (or water intoxication). The badly chosen contest called Hold Your Wee for a Wii required people to drink large quantities of water without urinating in order to win a Nintendo Wii video game console.

After the air we breathe, water is next in line for what we associate as most necessary to survive.

We are told to drink at least eight glasses a day and to always stay hydrated.

However, it is possible to consume too much water. Excessive quantities of water in the body lead to a condition known as hypothermia in which sodium levels drop to a mortally low amount.

The diluted blood causes osmotic pressure to build in the body and cells imbibe this excess. Organs swell, including the brain where blood vessels tear. It is this bleeding in the brain that is the quickest possible cause of death.

Athletes are reminded to replace body fluids when they exercise heavily. Water might not be the best answer, however, to replenishing lost fluids. Over drinking water flushes out the body’s electrolytes. That is where sports drinks come in as a handy, healthy alternative.

Not only do they provide water but they replace sodium lost through sweat as well. It is always tragic to see a health conscious person fall ill in hot weather due to imbibing too much water.

The natural reflex to drink lots of water becomes a contradiction as it finally does more harm than good. If sports drinks are not readily available, salty snacks are another option. The essential point being to maintain sodium levels in the blood.

Not only athletes, but MDMA (Ecstasy) users are at high risk for hypothermia. The drug increases the body’s core temperature putting users at risk for hypothermia (heatstroke).

Aware of the dangers of overheating and under the effects of the drug, people have been known to drink too much water leading to reported cases of brain damage and even death.

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