“Drinking too much water nearly killed me!”
That’s how the story started on a first-aid course I was teaching. I was into the middle of my spiel on hyponatremia (water intoxication) when one of the students blurted out that statement.
“It occurred on an organized long distance bike ride,” he continued. “We were riding along a ridge and I started to feel sick and was developing a headache. I thought I was just dehydrated and needed to rest, so I drank more water, but the headache was getting worse. I knew something was wrong and needed to go to the hospital. Luckily I wasn’t alone on the ride and an aid station was near by. The EMTs called in the ambulance and away I went to the hospital. I spent the next three days there recovering from what the doctors say was drinking too much water. Looks like I had been drinking more water than I realized.”
As days begin to warm, more and more people head outdoors for recreation and drinking water is the way they stay hydrated. Combined with the various snacks, hyponatremia is not an issue, as the snacks help replace glucose and salts (electrolytes) being flushed away. Without the snacks however, too much water can completely flush away your electrolytes, leaving you in a state of hyponatremia, which if goes unchecked can lead to death.
Hyponatremia is a fairly common occurrence among athletes and the signs and symptoms can easily be confused with dehydration:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of energy and fatigue
- Restlessness and irritability
- Muscle weakness, spasms or cramps
One way of determining whether your suffering from hyponatremia or dehydration is the color of your urine. If you’re experiencing the signs and symptoms, but your urine is dark in color, it is likely you’re suffering from dehydration. If your urine is clear, it may very well be hyponatremia.
The simple way of preventing hyponatremia is to simply eat snacks. The natural salts and sugars helps keep your electrolytes in balance.
It’s far easier to keep from succumbing to hyponatremia than it is treating. The latter usually requires hospital stay and IV.
It’s far too easy to continue drinking too much water in the back country, especially when the fear of not knowing where the next watering hole exists. People tend to overcompensate by drinking too much
With the conslaught of being constantly reminded to hydrate, it is important to keep in mind the risks of hyponatremia persists with too much unregulated hydration.
Remember the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”