Drinking too much water during athletics, exercise can be dangerous: report

Carlsbad, CA – You may have heard the phrase “drink water before you’re thirsty,” but the deaths last summer of two high school football players who drank excessive amounts of fluids have prompted researchers to issue updated recommendations for athletes and people who exercise.

In a statement released by a consensus panel at the International Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia Consensus Development Conference in Carlsbad, CA, researchers advised people to listen to their bodies and drink when thirsty to avoid developing dangerously low levels of blood sodium – called exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH) – while working out.

According to a press release, EAH (also known as water intoxication) can occur when an individual drinks more water, sports drink or other fluids than the body can get rid of through sweat or urine. The overabundance of fluid dilutes the body’s sodium level, potentially resulting in disrupted regulatory functions.

Symptoms – including headache, vomiting, confusion and seizures – can develop within 24 hours after physical activity. However, EAH may have mild or no symptoms before becoming severe. It can be fatal if not immediately treated.

EAH can be prevented by drinking less, avoiding “forced hydration practices” and drinking when thirsty. The strategy applies to those who recreationally exercise as well as athletes.