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Can You Drown from Drinking Too Much Water?

Explore the Condition Known as Hyponatremia

Can You Drown from Drinking Too Much Water?


You can’t drown from drinking too much water, but drinking too much can be fatal.


More Info: The medical definition of drowning, according to Segen’s Medical Dictionary, is “Death from asphyxia caused by a liquid entering the lungs and preventing the absorption of oxygen leading to cerebral hypoxia and cardiac arrest”.  Drinking too much water will not cause drowning in this manner, but can instead cause a sometimes fatal condition known as hyponatremia.

What Is Hyponatremia?

Though not very common, it is possible to drink too much water.  Drinking too much water can cause a condition called hyponatremia, in which there is an imbalance of water to salt in the body.  This occurs when your kidneys cannot process the excess water diluting electrolytes which result in low salt levels in the blood.

The onset of hyponatremia from too much water intake is rare and can be caused by other factors.

Symptoms of Hyponatremia

If you fear that you may be experiencing hyponatremia you may be experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Confused mental state
  • Convulsions
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Muscle Cramps and Weakness
  • Nausea and Vomiting

There are several tests that your doctor can perform to ascertain if hyponatremia is the cause of your symptoms including blood tests and urine analysis.

How to Avoid Hyponatremia

For very athletic people who may have a higher instance of excessive water intake, replacing lost fluids with drinks that contain electrolytes, generally marketed as sports drinks, can help to stave off the condition.



UMIM: Healing Foods Pyramid – Water | University of Michigan Health System.” University of Michigan Health System. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 June 2010.

Can I Die from Drinking Too Much Water? – Military Fitness –” News | N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2012. <>.

Hyponatremia – PubMed Health.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2012. <>

Expert Opinion

Quote:  “When you read about people who die or get kidney damage “from drinking too much water” you are only hearing half of the story. . . These people die or are seriously injured internally from over-hydration with insufficient replacement of sodium, which is called dilutional hyponatremia. The documented cases are from participants in long distance running or ultra endurance events lasting longer than four hours of continuous, sweaty, activity.”

Source: Stew Smith; Can I Die from Drinking Too Much Water?

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