Sunday, January 14, 2007


Autopsy Finds Signs of Water Intoxication in Radio Contestant's Death

Well, duh!!! "Water Intoxication" is not a new phenomenon. Atheletes have died from it, babies have died from it, hikers have died from it. Unfortunately, people continue to die from it - and now they're having contests to see how fast they can do so.

The medical name for water intoxication is Hyponatremia and I've seen firsthand what happens. It's not pretty, either. We had a baby in the ER once, about 9 months old, whose parents were told by the family doctor to make sure the child got enough fluids during a bout with the ordinary flu. Unfortunately, the doctor forgot to tell them that there was such a thing as "too much fluid" and they gave the hungry baby all the water that she could drink - which turned out too be too damn much - and by the time the poor parents realized something other than the "flu" was causing the baby's rapidly progressing problems and brought the baby into the Emergency Room, it was too late, and she died in spite of our best efforts.

Hyponatremia results when a dehydrated person drinks too much water without the accompanying electrolytes. When too much water enters the body's cells, the tissues swell with the excess fluid. Your cells maintain a specific concentration gradient, so excess water outside the cells (the serum) draws sodium from within the cells out into the serum in an attempt to re-establish the necessary concentration. As more water accumulates, the serum sodium concentration drops. From the cell's point of view, water intoxication produces the same effects as would result from drowning in fresh water. Electrolyte imbalance and tissue swelling can cause an irregular heartbeat, allow fluid to enter the lungs, and may cause fluttering eyelids. Swelling puts pressure on the brain and nerves, which can cause behaviors resembling alcohol intoxication. Swelling of brain tissues can cause seizures, coma and ultimately death unless water intake is restricted and a hypertonic saline (salt) solution is administered.

The kidneys of a healthy adult can process fifteen liters of water a day! You are unlikely to suffer from water intoxication, even if you drink a lot of water, as long as you drink over time as opposed to intaking an enormous volume at one time.

Short Chemistry lesson

How the radio station in question missed all this, I don't know. There has been enough published material about so-called "Water Intoxication" and the resulting deaths of otherwise healthy people that you would think that someone there should have been aware of the dangers involved and done something to ensure that the contest did not take place.

Apparently not, though.

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