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Lisa Scholl

Lisa Scholl


Recognizing hyperhydration: Symptoms of water intoxication

Without the external supply of water through food or the consumption of beverages, the human organism is not viable. Water not only conducts dangerous toxins from the body and is involved in the regulation of body temperature. Rather, water serves as a means of transport for nutrients as well as oxygen. However, consuming too much water can also be harmful, as water intoxication can lead to death in extreme cases. But what is behind the term, how much water should you take in throughout the day and what symptoms characterize hyperhydration? How do you act in an emergency and which people are particularly at risk? This article provides answers!

Parents regularly remind their children to consume enough water to maintain bodily functions. And medical professionals also advise their patients to keep an eye on their water balance and protect themselves against dehydration. But those who consume excessive amounts of water run the risk of hyperhydration.

Water intoxication, also called hyperhydration (hyperhydration), describes a disturbed salt balance as a result of increased water intake. Affected individuals who consume large amounts of water in one day show specific symptoms.

The reason for the malaise: Although the body needs several liters of water per day to transport nutrients, minerals and salt, too much water dilutes the blood and reduces the salt concentration.

What happens in the body during water intoxication?

In order for the human body to function, the ingested nutrients, minerals and salts are transported to the body’s cells. The nutrients, especially potassium and sodium, are called electrolytes. Among other things, they ensure the maintenance of the functions of the human organism.

If 1 to 3 liters of water are drunk, the cells are sufficiently supplied. If, on the other hand, the fluid intake exceeds the recommended values within 3 hours, too much fluid enters the human tissue. This is the case, for example, when 5 to 6 liters of water are consumed in a short time.

As a result, the salt concentration decreases as nutrients are flushed from the cells. The body switches to emergency mode and prevents salts from being excreted through the urine. Thus, the affected person may not feel the need to visit the toilet despite high water intake.

Instead, the water accumulates in the body. In the worst case, this circumstance affects the brain tissue, where the fluid exerts pressure on the brain. However, the skull does not provide enough room to expand. This in turn can lead to cardiac arrhythmias. Kidney function can also be reduced or stopped when water enters.

How much water should you drink?

The German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends a fluid intake of 2650 milliliters per day for the age group of 19 to 51 years, given an average energy expenditure of 2650 kilocalories. The urine volume corresponds to the drinking volume.

Here, the recommended value applies under the following conditions:

  • These are average German climatic conditions. In hot weather, other values apply.
  • An average amount of common salt is ingested.
  • Man follows an average diet.
  • The human being is in an average state of health.
  • Complaints such as vomiting, diarrhea or fever are not present.

In addition, the DGE points out that fluid requirements may increase. This is possible under the following circumstances:

  • There is a higher energy turnover.
  • It is unusually hot.
  • The air is cold and dry.
  • A lot of salt is absorbed.
  • The meals contain protein for the most part.
  • Diarrhea, fever and vomiting disrupt electrolyte balance.

Anyone who does a lot of sports or tends to be very physically active due to their job should check their mineral intake. To do this, the tap water can be filtered and then enriched with dietary supplements such as calcium or magnesium tablets.

But be careful: the consumption of dietary supplements should be realized only in consultation with a doctor who can give a professional recommendation based on a blood test.

Interested people who want to
build a water filter yourself
and save money will need a water bottle, cloth, charcoal, pebbles, string and a knife. Easier is to purchase a professional water filter.

When is too much water harmful?

A maximum of 3 liters of water should be consumed within 16 hours. In this way, the efficiency of the organs and the brain is maintained. As little as 5 liters in a few hours can cause hyperhydration.

An adult with a body weight of approximately 70 kilograms could become acutely ill in a period of a few hours with a fluid intake of 5 to 6 liters of water. Betting drinking also poses a danger because of this.

The symptoms of water intoxication

Some of the symptoms of water intoxication are nonspecific. In particularly severe cases, with consumption between 5 and 10 liters of water per day, even a comatose state or death is possible.

But what concrete symptoms can be named?

  • General malaise
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Intracranial pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cramps
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness (lethargy)
  • Little to no urge to urinate

What should you do in case of water poisoning?

Anyone who drinks a large amount of water and notices symptoms should consult a health care provider immediately . This may be the case from 3 liters. This can prevent serious consequences such as coma.

A tip: If there is no urge to urinate, in some cases this can be triggered with medication. But even supposedly harmless symptoms such as vomiting should not be underestimated.

Hyperhydration: Which people are particularly at risk?

Extreme and competitive athletes, people with pre-existing conditions, and infants are particularly at risk. Athletes sweat a lot and require larger amounts of water than people with average activity levels or a lack of exercise due to increased physical activity.

However, for the most part, you should rely on hypertonic drinks instead of drinking tap water. At the same time, it is important that athletes learn to dose their water intake. This is because endurance athletes in particular tend to consume too much fluid.

People who suffer from kidney, heart or liver weakness and do not excrete enough urine are also at risk. Experts also advise that infants under 6 months of age should not drink water. The reason: their kidney functions are not yet developed.

As babies get older, they can then be slowly introduced to water. And the little ones also absorb some water through their first baby food. But is conventional
water suitable for baby food
? The rule here is that water for infants and young children should either be boiled or filtered.


How dangerous are legionella?

Legionella in drinking water is not uncommon. Basically, bacteria in low concentrations are inevitably an integral part of any freshwater. However, Legionella can cause flu-like illness in humans.

But what are legionella bacteria anyway? How are they transmitted and what danger do they actually pose? All this and how you can protect yourself from infection with legionella, you will learn in this article.

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