Water Intoxication: Hyponatremia

Water intoxication

is also known as


. It occurs when somebody excessively drinks a large amounts of plain water. This leads to a drop in the sodium levels in the blood. Usually it used to be a rare condition in sporting events. But water intoxication is fast becoming too prevalent as more number of novice athletes are participating in endurance events. Read on to know more about water intoxication.

Excessive and prolonged sweating creates an imbalance in the

blood-sodium concentration

. It is impertinent that the sodium lost in sweat during exercising at high intensities should be replaced. Studies has shown that long duration events, like Ironman distance triathlons, causes a drop in blood sodium concentrations in athletes.

Athletes who are at risk are those who run on the longest course as they are inclined to drink the most amount of water during the course of the event. Also, those athletes who drink excessive amount of water and extra fluids in days before the marathon are at a higher risk of hyponatremia.

Causes of Water Intoxication

Sodium is lost in sweat during high intensity work outs. Therefore, you should remember to replace the lost minerals and water to maintain your blood sodium concentrations at a normal level. For an example, think of a glass full of salt water. If you pour out half of the water (similar to losing minerals while sweating), and refill the glass with water only, then the sodium concentration in the glass lessens. Also, the water gets more diluted.

The same mechanism can happen in an athlete’s bloodstream who hydrates him/herself with water only during prolonged sweating. This results in hyponatremia or water intoxication.

For a proper muscle function and transmission of nerve impulse, adequate sodium balance is required. If any slight depletion occurs in the blood sodium concentration, it can lead to several problems. Research indicates that athletes who do high intensity workouts, lose up to

2 grams of salt per liter of sweat


Therefore, it is very important to replace this lost sodium as it is critical for the athlete’s safety and performance during an event.

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