Water Intoxication. It's Real And It's Deadly.

GREENSBORO, NC -- Most of us don't drink enough water, but in the last few weeks there have been stories of people dying because they drank too much water.

For example, a Georgia high school football player died after he drank two gallons of water during football practice and another two gallons of Gatorade. His brain swelled leaving him brain dead.

He didn't take drugs. He didn't load up on caffeine.He drank water. How can that be dangerous? Sports medicine specialist Dr. Chris Miles of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center explains, "we call it water intoxication for a reason because it can be similar to other forms of intoxication."

Doctor Miles says no matter what kind of exercise we're doing, we should never drink more than 120 ounces of fluid in an hour. A gallon is 128 ounces.


Too much water in too short a time can lead to an imbalance of salts in our blood. It's called an electrolyte imbalance. And when that happens the brain swells.

"If you think about the brain as a sponge, when the brain is dehydrated and doesn't have enough water it gets a little bit smaller. When the brain has the right amount of fluid and the right amount of water it is a little bit bigger the right kind of texture. But if we add too much water it can get super saturated and that's where you see its a little bit bigger and it actually is a little bit drippy. And if that happens inside the closed shell that is the skull, that's where we run into problems."

Doctor Miles says the average persons water consumption is not going to get them into trouble. He recommends 80 to 100 ounces in a day. That's 4-5 20 ounce bottles.


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