A 35-year-old woman in the United States lost her life due to an unexpected and rarely recognised health concern: water toxicity.
Ashley Summers from Indiana was on a vacation with her family over the Fourth of July weekend when she landed in the hospital, New York Post reported. She felt dehydrated amid the scorching heat when she downed four bottles of water within a short span of time, hoping to alleviate her discomfort. However, this well-intentioned effort led to unforeseen consequences.
Ms Ashley’s older brother, Devon Miller, shared the tragic ordeal. “Someone said she drank four bottles of water in that 20 minutes. I mean, an average water bottle is like 16 ounces, so that was 64 ounces (approximately 2 litres) that she drank in the span of 20 minutes. That’s half a gallon,” he said, as per People.
According to Mr Miller, when his sister got home, she passed out in the garage and never regained consciousness. “My sister, Holly, called me, and she was just an absolute wreck. She was like ‘Ashley is in the hospital. She has brain swelling, they don’t know what’s causing it, they don’t know what they can do to get it to go down, and it’s not looking good,”” said Mr Miller.
The doctors told Ms Ashley’s family that she died from Hyponatremia – also known as water toxicity, which occurs when the amount of sodium in your blood is “abnormally low” according to the Mayo Clinic.
“It was a shock to all of us. When they first started talking about water toxicity. It was like this is a thing?” Mr Miller recalled.
While rare, water toxicity can be fatal. It occurs when too much water is consumed in a short period of time, or if the kidneys retain too much water due to underlying health conditions. Symptoms of water toxicity include feeling generally unwell as well as having muscle cramps, soreness, nausea and headaches.
Dr Blake Froberg, a toxicologist with the hospital, explained that the rare cause of death is more likely to occur during the summer or if someone works outside or exercises frequently. “There are certain things that can make someone more at risk for it, but the overall thing that happens is that you have too much water and not enough sodium in your body,” he said, noting it’s important for people to drink things that have electrolytes, sodium and potassium.