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Symptoms of water intoxication

The human body needs a balanced amount of water to survive, and urination and perspiration are body’s natural ways of processing and excreting water. In cases where people take more water than they actually need, the concentration of electrolytes in the blood is lowered, which is known as water intoxication. This condition is also termed as hyponatremia, water-poisoning, or hyper-hydration, and is most common in athletes or during military trainings. Initial symptoms are mild and can resemble those of diarrhea. Drinking water in the amounts exceeding the body’s requirements is a primary cause of water intoxication, but some antidepressant drugs may also lead to water-poisoning.

Hypothyroidism, cortisone deficiency, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration are all known to be the causes of water intoxication, while certain diseases, like kidney and heart failure, as well as cirrhosis, are a risk factor for the condition. Since water will affect the whole body including the digestive and the nervous system, water-intoxicated adults are likely to experience nausea, slurred speech, weakness and fatigue, muscle cramps, headache and bloating, while hallucination, disorientation and confusion are serious signs of the swelling of the brain cells. 

Extreme cases of water intoxication may be accompanied by respiratory arrest, swelling of the brain and can even lead to seizures and death. Infants’ faces tend to be swollen or puffy as a result of water poisoning. The most common symptoms of the condition in small children are confusion, fatigue and headache, but bodily temperature may decrease slightly as well, and the baby can become irritable or sleepy. All the people that have been water intoxicated require medical attention, and the condition is treated with vasopressin receptor which regulates water retention in the body.

Still, there are a few things that can be done at home to prevent the aggravation of the condition. Limited amount of water and other fluids is advised, but on the other hand, the person should reach out for salty foods, like chicken soup, pretzels, a dill pickle, cheese, and tomato juice. Analgesics including aspirin and ibuprofen are not recommended; whereas diuretics sold at pharmacies will help get rid of excess fluid. Water intoxication in infants can be prevented by not giving them water, since the water they get from breast milk or formula is all they need. Due to the fact that the increased water intake can be fatal, the person should drink water only to satisfy the body’s requirements and restore the amounts lost. During strenuous exercises, sports drinks are a more reasonable alternative as they contain electrolytes.

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