A 35-year-old American woman reportedly suffered from discomfort before she died after drinking too much water in just 20 minutes. The opportunity to come back to the risk of hyponatremia, drinking too much water with Dr Gérald Kierzek.
Yes, it is possible to die from drinking too much water, too quickly, even if it is essential to our life. If several cases have already been reported in the scientific literature, it is a recent tragedy that reminds us of this in the daily newspaper the Daily Mail.
Four bottles of water and brain edema
On August 4, Ashley Summers, a mother, died after a relaxing weekend spent near a lake in Indiana. Heat stroke or other, the victim said to be dizzy, and to feel an extreme thirst. To quench it, the woman then drinks 1.9 liters of water, about 4 bottles of 50 cl, in just 20 minutes.
Back home, she collapses in her garage, never to regain consciousness, after suffering severe brain swelling. The hospital then diagnoses what is called hyponatremia, and cerebral edema caused by too much water intake.
Hyponatremia, an excess of hydration that disrupts the body
How can you die from drinking too much water? While our body needs about 2 liters a day to stay healthy. Dr Gérald Kierzek, emergency physician, explains it to us:
“We think much more often of alcoholic coma or dehydration, heat stroke, but water coma exists, and can kill by “hyperhydration”; This is called dilution hyponatremia. that water will dilute blood sodium (salt, essential for regulate blood pressure, nerves and muscles) because the patient drinks too quickly and too much. The body no longer has time to decompensate between water intake and output. It’s water poisoning!”
If the body fails to compensate, edema can then form: water then comes out of the blood vessels to create edema. A very dangerous phenomenon if it occurs in the brain, the organ being unable to swell stuck at the level of the cranial box. This can lead to seizures, coma, and even death. Other factors can cause hyponatremia:The elderly, in heart failure, on diuretics or psychotropic drugs, have a greater risk of not regulating the inflow and outflow of water and are to be monitored.
Hyponatremia: what symptoms, what management?
Faced with hyponatremia, the symptoms are diverse: “This intoxication can induce asthenia, nausea and vomiting, even psychological disorders, such as confusion, up to coma” evokes Dr. Kierzek. Muscle weakness and cramps are also symptoms.
In case of suspicion of hyponatremia, management is related to the severity of the state of health: “On a fragile person, on a diuretic, in heart failure or in a person who has drunk too much water, the first thing to do is a blood test with a blood ionogram to check that the natremia (the sodium concentration contained in the blood) diluted is not too low. Afterwards, treatment can vary from fluid restriction to resuscitation, in the most serious cases”.
The doctor reminds us however, it is not a question of not drinking any more, on the contrary. But for good hydration, “we drink about 2 liters of water a day, in small regular quantities and before feeling thirsty”.