Water, How Much is Too Much?

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Water, How Much is Too Much?
Created On: Jun 1, 2008
Last Edited On: Dec 5, 2008

Water, How Much is Too Much?

frozen nalgeneWater the Stuff of Life!, lalpinist photo

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Water, How Much is Too Much?
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I have heard about people that have consumed too much water and suffered kidney damage and even death. I also know that any substance even water can be dangerous if too much is taken in a short duration of time. In my research on SummitPost I found no information on the Risks of Over Hydration. If this article can save one life then I would feel that I was successful. The information contained and uncredited photo were gleaned from the internet as well as my own experience in first aid training. Please feel free to make suggestions.

The following true story underlines the importance for all of to read: Water, How Much is Too Much?

On January 12, 2007, a 28-year old Californian wife and mother of three children died from drinking too much water. She was found dead at her home after drinking an estimated two gallons in a short time during a contest to win a Wii machine. Despite noticeable discomfort and complaints the promoters continued the contest. She died of water intoxication.

What Is Water Intoxication?

Water Intoxication is also known as hyperhydration or hyponatremia. Hyper and Hypo are both Latin prefixes. Hyper means “excessive” and hydration refers to “the process of providing an adequate amount of liquid to bodily tissues.” Hypo means “less than normal” and natremia means “the presence of sodium in urine”.

Sodium (or salt) helps regulate the body’s fluids. Water intoxication occurs when the body’s most important electrolyte, sodium, is too quickly diluted by consuming large amounts of water in a short duration of time. This causes the cells in the body to swell and malfunction.

Essentially when large amounts of liquids are placed in the body in a short duration of time the kidneys fail to keep up to the demands that it can normally keep up to in the every day routine. This causes an imbalance in the concentration of electrolytes in the blood as well as an excess of blood volume. This causes excess water to enter the blood stream and the cells swell.

From the cell's point of view, water intoxication produces the same effects as would result from drowning in fresh water.

When this happens in the brain the pressure can cause headaches and impaired breathing. It also causes the heart to work overtime as well.

What are the Symptoms of Water Intoxication?

Running Man

Awareness to what is going on in your body is probably more crucial than knowing the symptoms since in most cases once Water Intoxication occurs it is sometimes too late.

Major hallmark symptoms include: a severe headache and impaired breathing.

Other symptoms can include: weakness, dizziness, nausea, muscle cramps, slurred speech, confusion, loss of consciousness and in severe cases seizures.


The following contribution is from knoback: Hyponatremia (low blood sodium) is a dangerous and likely under recognized problem, especially in the mountains. It has become more common with the advent of bottled water and advice from medical professionals to rehydrate primarily with water.

The symptoms-weakness, nausea, headache-are easily confused with altitude sickness or even dehydration. The one potentially distinguishing sign, dizziness and loss of balance, often occurs late in the course, and of course, is also a symptom of high altitude cerebral edema.

Small, frequent drinks are better than guzzling. Having some salt and glucose in your fluids also helps. There are many formulas out there, but the simplest is to cut a commercial sports drink 50/50 with plain water. This solution may be absorbed faster from the stomach and greatly lessens your chances of hyponatremia. Thanks knoback for the additional information!

Treatment for Water Intoxication


Proper hydration is crucial for people who are exposed to hot weather, exercise, have diarrhea, vomiting, and illness. Intake of fluids with electrolytes such as sports drinks is highly recommended. Many sports drinks contain too high of concentration of electrolytes and could easily be diluted to a two part water one part sports drink and be more beneficial over the long term. By having the proper balance of electrolytes will enable the body to run in an optimal condition.

Victims with slurred speech, confusion, severe weakness, or loss of consciousness need medical attention immediately. If possible call for advanced medical support immediately.

Ask the victim about the recent history of fluid intake. If they have been drinking at least a pint of fluid per hour during exercise, consider the possibility of hyponatremia. In cases of rapid massive water intake consider the possibility of hyponatremia.

Victims of hyponatremia need salt. In minor cases -- usually just when nausea is present -- before cramps, dizziness or confusion occur, victims may feel better with salty food intake. Be very careful not to treat dehydration as hyponatremia and suggest salty foods when the victim really needs fluid. Assume any victim complaining of thirst is dehydrated.

Avoid over the counter medications ibuprofen, aspirin, or naprosyn as pain relievers may make symptoms worse.

Who Should Be Concerned?

Drinking Water - is melted snowlingana photo.

Those who participate in binge drinking at parties and contests.

Individuals who use drugs are at risk due to excessive fluid intake while trying to dilute urine prior to a drug test.

Athletes who sweat while exercising and loose large amounts of water and sodium. Care should be taken to replenish with liquids that have electrolytes such as sports drinks.

Rule of Thumb...Additional Comment from The Chief
Your system can only process 23-25 oz of H20 per hour at peak aerobic output and 12-15 oz. during normal body exertion. Anything over those intake amounts and you are setting yourself up for disaster.

Over hydration (Hyponatremia) is Fatal. Under hydration is not.

In the world of Endurance Performance, the practice of "Less is Best" will definitely keep you alive and going further with better results.

Okay So How Much Water is Enough?

Water bagneghafi photo.

Actually it is much less about how much water you drink.
It is much more important how fast you drink it.

The answer to this question depends on a number of circumstances, including diet, exercise habits, and environment.

A diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains will require less water than a diet that is high in sodium and protein. Salts and spices increase the bodies need for water.

Kidneys can process up to 15 liters of water each day. In general most healthy adults require about three quarts of liquids each day. Most of the fluids we get is from food so the 8 to 12 glasses per day is a great recommendation.

There are situations that require increased amounts of hydration such as being outdoors in high heat as well as at altitude. The key is gradual consistent replacement of fluids using sips rather than consuming large amounts of liquids in a short duration of time.

The color of your urine is a great indicator to your hydration level. Yellow urine can indicate that more water is needed in the body. Be aware of other factors that can cause yellow urine such as vitamins and foods such as red beets.

People With kidney conditions should consult their physician before changing diet or hydration intake. They should also consult with their physician prior to starting any new exercise program.

Final Words

Balance is the key to many things in life. Whether you are riding a mountain bike or climbing a steep mountain wall balance must be maintained. Balance of fluids is crucial to a healthy lifestyle. Having too much water can be as fatal as not having enough.

Sip sparingly throughout the day and keep balance.



Kidney Disease

Too Much Wateris dangerous

Water Intoxication


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Bubba Suess

Bubba Suess - Jul 25, 2013 9:33 pm - Hasn't voted


FYI, uper and upo (the 'h' is absent in the spelling and represented by a breathing mark) are actually Greek, not Latin. Though they have multiple meanings, you could simply say that they mean over/under.

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Water, How Much is Too Much?

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