The Hidden Danger of Over-hydration


Over-hydrationMost people realize the serious dangers that come with dehydration, but few understand the risks associated with drinking too much water. To protect yourself and your children, learn the little-known dangers of over-hydration.


An important electrolyte that’s key to human survival, sodium helps regulate the amount of water inside and around cells. When you consume too much water, you can dilute the amount of sodium in your body, resulting in a condition known as hyponatremia. When this occurs, your body’s water levels may rise, causing swelling in and within the body. This swelling can cause mild or life-threatening health problems, including swelling of the brain, coma or death.

Hyponatremia symptoms can include:

• Confusion
• Headache
• Seizures
• Serious fatigue
• Nausea and vomiting
• Irritability or restlessness
• Muscle spasms, weakness, or cramps
• Coma

How Much Water is Too Much?

Contrary to popular opinions, there are no formal guidelines for how much water a person should drink every day. A number of factors can influence an individual’s water needs, including body weight, diet, activity level, and weather. According to the Institute of Medicine, “adequate” water intake spans from three cups per day for infants to 16 cups for lactating women.

Typical signs of adequate hydration include pale or straw-colored urine, along with active sweating when appropriate. If you are well-hydrated, your skin should rebound right away after being pinched. Your skin should also take no more than two seconds to return to its normal color after blanching via pressure.

When to See a Doctor

Obviously, you should drink plenty of water when you are thirsty; however, if you notice that you are excessively thirsty for no apparent reason, visit your doctor, since this could be a sign of a serious underlying condition.

You should also see your doctor if you have a medical condition that increases your risk of hyponatremia, or if you show symptoms after participating in high-intensity activities, which increase the risk of hyponatremia. You can also reduce your risk of hyponatremia during strenuous activity by consuming sports drinks instead of – or in addition to – water.

Dr. Jeannie Kenkare

Written by Dr. Jeannie Kenkare

Dr. Kenkare is a highly experienced clinician with a background in family medicine. As a founding member of PhysicianOne Urgent Care's parent company Happy Mountains, she is also our Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Kenkare provides guidance and leadership to our health care team, and is responsible for the review of clinical guidelines, decision tools, and outcomes to develop and implement strategies that will improve patient care and clinical quality.