As the sweltering heat of summer settles in, staying hydrated is crucial for our overall health and well-being. We often hear the importance of drinking an adequate amount of water to prevent dehydration, but few people are aware of the potential dangers of excessive water intake. Water intoxication, also known as water poisoning or hyponatremia, is a condition that can occur when the body’s electrolyte balance is disrupted due to an overwhelming intake of water. This often goes unnoticed and underestimated, making it a silent but potentially life-threatening hazard during the summer months.
It’s easy to drink bottle after bottle of water in the summer heat, especially if you are exercising. Drinking water is a great way to fight dehydration, which can put you at risk for seizures and a life-threatening heat stroke.
Growing up we often heard our parents emphasize the importance of drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially during summer. While what they said was true, what they probably didn’t say is worth knowing too. Excess of anything, including water, can do more harm than good. Drinking too much water can lead to water intoxication, a serious medical condition. Although the risk is generally low, the possibility still exists. Overhydration, while rare, can occur if you drink more water than your body needs too quickly for your kidneys to handle.
Understanding the requirement of how much water the body needs is the key to avoid overhydration. The best way to beat the summer heat without making the kidneys suffer is by consuming 50% of plain water and the other 50% in the form of sources like fruits, milk, vegetables, etc., which will balance the electrolyte level in the body.
An average male should drink about 14 glasses of fluid daily which is approximately 3 litres.
- Female adults are required to consume a little more than 2.5 litres, which is 10 glasses of fluid per day. Pregnant women need to consume up to 11 glasses of liquids every day, and for new mothers who are breastfeeding 12-13 glasses of fluids are recommended.
- Kids have to drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid every day and also consume a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to liquids is essential in their growing years.
Overhydration among people with kidney-related problems can cause edema in which the feet, ankles, and wrists swell up. It is crucial to maintain optimal blood pressure as it can present as a challenge.
Common Symptoms of Overhydration include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in mental state such as confusion or disorientation
You can also use the following as alternatives to water. They will help keep thirst at bay while adding electrolytes and sodium during a summer workout.
Coconut water: Electrolytes including potassium and magnesium are found in coconut water, which makes it an ideal natural beverage for rehydrating during or after exercise.
Sports drinks: Sports drinks comprising key electrolytes – sodium, potassium and magnesium – are ideal for prolonged training. “Marathon runners and cyclists frequently practice for two to three hours each day and sports drinks are apt for them,” says Nandy.
Fruit-infused water: Fruits that are high in potassium can be infused into water to create fruit-infused water. They are refreshing and minimal in calories and sugar.
Measures to prevent Over hydration :
The treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. Some common steps can be:
- Cutting back on the daily fluid intake.
- Getting consultation and medication for how to increase the amount of urine production.
- Finding and treating the root cause of the overhydration.
- Stopping any medications that may be responsible directly or indirectly for overhydration.
- Reducing or replacing sodium intake in severe cases.
- Avoiding drinking excessive water immediately after eating.
As we enjoy the sunny days of summer and engage in outdoor activities, let’s remember to prioritize our health and well-being by practicing responsible hydration. Drinking water is undoubtedly important, but it is equally crucial to recognize the dangers of excessive water intake. By understanding the risks of water intoxication and following the appropriate guidelines, we can ensure a safe and enjoyable summer for everyone. Stay cool, stay hydrated, and stay informed!
Dr Jupitora Dutta