- December 16, 2016
- Posted by: emobile
- Category: Researcher's Corner
Emobileclinic Researchers Corner
The common advice offered by Doctors to sick patients is to drink more water. However, in a new study published in BMJ Case Reports, researchers have shown that is a need for further study to lay credence to this traditional advice.
For years, the prevailing medical advice in case of flu or respiratory infections has been to drink plenty of fluids. In theory, the advice is considered good because during a cold, the body produces liquids through the nose or may be having a fever, which could result in more fluid loss. With infections in general, drinking more water is considered helpful with intravascular volume loss, increased vascular permeability as well as replacement of fluids lost in fever and vomiting. Water is assumed to be without harm and that is why it is recommended to consume more water.
However, in a new case report reminds doctors and patients that evidence for the benefits of drinking plenty of water is scarce and in fact, drinking too much water can be dangerous. The new study details the case of a 59-year-old woman who drank too much water as a result of her urinary tract infection (UTI). The woman began to feel the symptoms of a recurring UTI, which had flared up several times in her life previously. Although, in the case of UTIs, drinking more water than usual has been shown to temporarily reduce the number of bacteria in urine, but the reasons for this remain unclear.
Acting on the doctor’s advice of drinking half a pint of water every half hour, the woman drank several liters of water that day, but her UTI symptoms deteriorated. Consequently, she went to the emergency department at King’s College Hospital in the United Kingdom with symptoms of lower abdominal pain and dysuria. Laboratory investigations confirmed she had UTI while she doesn’t look sick. She had no medical history apart from a recurring UTI, did not smoke or take any medicine or recreational drugs, had no allergies, and was a moderate alcohol drinker.
While at the emergency department, the woman was given antibiotics and analgesics for her UTI. However, she soon started displaying new symptoms, such as shakiness and tremor, vomiting and speech difficulties.
Due to her speech impairment, doctors were suspecting possibility of a stroke but the blood tests and a computed tomography (CT) scan quickly revealed otherwise. It only showed signs of hyponatremia which is a medical condition characterized with low levels of sodium. Following the reduction of her water intake to 1 liter per day, the patient’s condition improved significantly the next day and the sodium levels were back to normal and the patient was discharged.
The authors noted that water intoxication resulting in hyponatremia is very uncommon among people with normal physiology. If a patient has normal renal function, it is difficult to drink more water than the body can excrete. However, if the levels of antidiuretic hormones are high, as is the case in some illnesses, this can reduce the excretion of water. In these cases, the authors ask, how sound is the medical advice to drink plenty of liquids?