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Date of last update: 10/04/2017.

Forum Name: Neurology Topics

Question: Water intoxication and subsequent brain damage

 humblestudent - Wed Jan 14, 2009 5:05 am

I am a male, 19, 175 cm tall and weighs 71 kg
I usually don't drink much during school, so i get very dehydrated. when i come back i drink about 1 liter of water and then after an hour i drink 1 liter more.
Then my head gets a bit dizzy and i keep going to the bathroom. I'm pretty sure i drank too much water, but would i get brain damage?
I'm really worried.
Also, Would this sudden intake of water after dehydration cause more damage to my brain cells?
I would really appreciate it if someone can tell me.
 John Kenyon, CNA - Wed Jan 21, 2009 11:55 pm

User avatar Hello -

Proper hydration is very important, but during normal healthy times it's generally a relatively minor issue. One way to tell whether you're dehyrated or not is to pinch some skin on the back of your hand and see if it stays pinched up by itself for more than a second. If so, you're probably a little low on fluids. Also, if your urine is concentrated (low volume, darker in color) then you probably need a little extra water.

While drinking a liter of water after a long dry spell during the day isn't a bad idea, more than that in one session is likely to cause some symptoms and is wasted anyway. Your body can only handle so much at a time when healthy. When sick it's often difficult to keep fluids down, which is why many times a stomach bug ends up sending the patient to the emergency room to be hydrated via IV fluids, at which time it goes in relatively slow (compared to drinking a bottle of water or two in a few minutes). Two liters could conceivably cause some slight swelling of the brain and overwork the kidneys a little. It won't cause brain damage, but it is possible to actually drink one's self into a coma by consuming so much water the brain swells enough to cause pressure sufficient to put the patient into a comatose state.

As usual, the motto "moderation in all things" applies. Once you're home from school, you might consider drinking 8-12 ounces of water, at a normal rate, then moving on to another glass (or small bottle) if you're still feeling thirsty, but not to the point that you're feeling woozy or urninating excessively (or producing absolutely clear urine). One liter, taken at a casual rate, would probably be quite sufficient to bring things even after classes.

I hope this is helpful. Please follow up with us here as needed.

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