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Water Intoxication From Distance Running: Are You at Risk?


You’ve been running for miles. You haven’t had a sip nor a drop of water or fluid from your kit. Your throat is parched. Your feet are screaming and your back is aching. But you refuse to sit down, to bend over, and take a few seconds to rest. In a race, even seconds count. And by the time you reach the finish line, you’re bathed in your sweat and you guzzle down enough water to keep an army of cacti alive for days. It’s a very familiar sight.

A number of people who take up distance running as an exercise has done something like this. Sometimes, it may be because some people can’t concentrate on the running if they have to bother guzzling down water while on the run. Others simply don’t feel good drinking water while they run, so they would rather do without it.

For whatever reason it may be, drinking water like this may have adverse effects on the body. One common concern is water intoxication. This is also known as hypothermia. Hypothermia is a condition that indicates too much hydration. How does it happen?

During a running race, athletes sweat a lot. This causes the body to lose electrolytes. After the race, athletes start taking in fluids again to restore water to their bodies. However, without the accompanying electrolytes, hypothermia may follow.

Water alone is not enough and too much of it too soon will only lead to an electrolyte imbalance. This condition is characterized by tissue swelling as well as an irregular heartbeat and fluttering eyelids. The latter is a probable result of the fluid that has entered the lungs. Since swelling often puts undue pressure on the brain as well as on the nerves, behavioral symptoms that are very similar to alcohol intoxication may be observed.

The worse is when an athlete falls into a seizure or coma. This happens when the swelling reaches the brain tissues. In extreme cases like this, water intake is controlled and a salt solution given to the athlete. This treatment must be administered to the patient or afflicted athlete even before the cellular damage caused by the tissue swelling has reached a massive level. If done so, the athlete is certain to recover within only a few days.

So make sure that you drink a lot of water over appropriate intervals instead of guzzling liters in one shot. Learn to take your time when you drink your water, when you take in your fluids. Unless you are competing in a race, there’s no reason to rush. Water intoxication is a condition that’s quite easy to prevent if you remember to take time to drink your fluids properly.

As a standard rule, adults, in general, must take in three quarts of fluid every day. Since a portion of that can already be found in food, 8-12 eight-ounce glasses per day is commonly recommended for a daily intake. However, if the day proves to be too sunny or the weather too hot, or if you engage in regular exercises like distance running that causes you to sweat quite a lot, then you should take in more water. This is also true if you are taking medicine.

After all, it’s good to drink plenty of water. Just keep in mind to drink right so you won’t have to suffer the effects of too much hydration.

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