Water toxicity, also known as water poisoning, can be deadly. Here’s what you need to know about the condition, as well as symptoms to look out for.

What Is Water Toxicity? What You Need to Know About Water Poisoning

What Happens When You Drink Too Much Water? (Water Intoxication)

The body needs water to function correctly, but drinking too much too fast can have serious health consequences. The kidneys can only remove 0.8 to 1.0 liters of water per hour, and a very high water intake can upset the body’s electrolyte balance.

It is difficult to drink too much water by accident, but it can happen, usually as a result of overhydrating during sporting events or intense training.

The symptoms of water intoxication are general — they can include confusion, disorientation, nausea, and vomiting.

In rare cases, water intoxication can cause swelling in the brain and become fatal.

This article describes the symptoms, causes, and effects of water intoxication. It also looks into how much water a person should drink each day.

Also see: 10 Warning Signs of Dehydration You Need To Know

What Is Water Toxicity?

Water toxicity actually goes by several names—hyponatremia, water intoxication, water poisoning, and overhydration.

The big challenge with water toxicity is its impact on levels of sodium, one of your body’s key electrolytes. Sodium helps your nerves, muscles, and other body tissues work properly, and it’s important for maintaining your blood pressure, the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains.

What Causes Water Toxicity?

Water toxicity is usually caused from taking in too much water, however, the Cleveland Clinic points out that, less commonly, you can lose too much sodium from your body, leading to hyponatremia. Those causes can include:

  • Taking diuretics. These can increase the amount of sodium you pee out.
  • Drinking too much alcohol. This can cause you to pee more and lose fluid from throwing up.
  • Having untreated diarrhea. This may lead to dehydration and lowered sodium levels.
  • Using certain medications. Some drugs like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and carbamazepine (Tegretol) raise your risk of hyponatremia.

Also people shouldn’t be scared to drink water for fear of getting water toxicity. It’s a pretty rare event, still it’s a good idea to be aware that this can happen. Your thirst is a good guide—pay attention to it.

Also see: Dehydration and How to Avoid It

What Is Too Much Water Intake?

The amount that qualifies as too much water intake varies based on age, height, weight, and physical activity levels. The standard advice from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is that 2.7 liters for women and 3.7 liters of fluids is a healthy intake per day. Though the Mayo Clinic states that about 20% of this usually comes from food. This amount might be too much for someone or too little for someone else depending on exercise, climate, individual health, and lifestyle.

To more specifically determine what the best water intake for you is, use calculations based on your weight and exercise. If not exercising, divide your body weight in pounds by 2 to get your daily intake in fluid ounces. Multiply this by 29.6 to get the number in milliliters. If you do exercise, use the same formula, but add the amount of water lost from exercising by weighing yourself before and after exercise. For each pound (0.45 kg) lost, drink 16-20 oz (0.5-0.6 liters) of water.

What Are The Effects Of Drinking Too Much Water?

The effects of drinking too much water include mild issues such as excessive urination, moderate issues such as vomiting and cramps, and serious issues such as seizures that could lead to death if there is a quick short-term case of severe water intoxication. But there is not much medical evidence of the long-term effects of consistent overhydration.

Although fairly rare, that overhydration can be just as dangerous as dehydration. This is why it is important to drink the proper amount of water daily to avoid any adverse health problems.

What Are The Symptoms Of Drinking Too Much Water?

If you drink too much water too rapidly, you dilute the electrolytes in your blood and, in particular, the sodium that leads to the movement of water into cells in your brain, and your brain swells up. This swelling can cause “major problem” with your brain.

That can lead to a slew of potential symptoms, the Cleveland Clinic says, including:

  • Color of urine
  • Bathroom trip frequency
  • Drinking water without necessity
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood sugar
  • Muscle cramps
  • Colorless hands, feet, and lips
  • Drowsiness
  • Double vision
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures

In severe cases, water toxicity can lead to seizures, coma, and death.

Why Is Electrolyte Loss Related To Water Intoxication?

Electrolyte loss is related to water intoxication as the excess water dilutes the body’s natural storage of salts, including electrolytes. Certain high-TDS mineral waters or sports drinks can help athletes replace electrolytes if they suspect they are over-hydrated during physical activity. Journal article from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation notes that if the water intoxication has progressed too far these drinks will not help.

If you're experiencing symptoms like an altered mental state or seizures, it's important to seek urgent medical attention, rather than simply making a doctor's appointment. If you have severe hyponatremia, water toxicity, water poisoning correcting it too quickly can be dangerous. Please visit or call our Nearest Emergency Room for the immediate medical help. We have board-certified physicians, nurses and staff to help you recover and give appropriate advice.

We have ER locations across the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area that are open and here to help you 24/7 If you or your family have a medical emergency.

We have 9 facilities spread across the DFW area with average wait times of less than 10 mins that are OPEN 24/7 located in Hurst, Colleyville, Frisco, Highland Village, Hillcrest, Uptown, Little Elm, Mansfield, and Texoma.