We’ve all heard of (if not experienced) food poisoning and alcohol poisoning before, but did you know there’s a such thing as water poisoning? Also known as water toxicity or water intoxication, this rare phenomenon occurs when too much water is consumed in too short of a period – and it can be fatal.
Unfortunately, that was the case for Ashley Miller – a 35-year-old mother of two who died of water toxicity after drinking 64 ounces of water over a 20-minute period. She was on vacation with her family for the Fourth of July weekend, which was mostly spent on a boat on Lake Freeman – a reservoir in Indiana.
“They were out on the boat all week and long Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday,” her brother, Devon Miller said – further explaining that his sister was severely dehydrated, but drinking water wasn’t making her feel any better. At a certain point, she started to feel lightheaded and had a bad headache.
In an effort to cure her headache and dizzyness, Ashley Miller drank four 16-ounce bottles of water over a 20-minute period – for reference, that’s how much water you’re supposed to drink in a day. It wasn’t until she and her family returned home on Tuesday (July 4) night that things took a sudden turn for the worse.
Ashley was walking across her garage to get into her family’s home when she suddenly passed out – right there in her garage. The mother of two never regained consciousness and it was later confirmed that she died of water toxicity – something her brother (like many others) didn’t even know was a real thing.
“My sister Holly called me, and she was just an absolute wreck,” Devon Miller said of the moment he knew something was wrong. “She’s like, ‘Ashley’s 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, it’s not looking good.’”
While the family – including her husband and two daughters – continue the mourning process, they are conforted by the fact that she was an organ donor at the time of her death. With her heart, her lungs, her liver, her kidneys and her long bone tissue, Ashley Miller will effectively save the lives of five people.
How Can We Better Avoice Water Toxicity?
When you start to feel dehydrated – especially on a hot summer day – your initial instincts are to drink water. While that’s certainly a good place to start, the Miller family learned two things about dehydration and water consumption that they want other families to learn from in hopes of avoiding another tragedy.
First, they learned that water consumption should be spaced out throughout the day. While the standard recommendation is to drink two liters of water per day, it’s also recommended not to drink more than one liter of water over a one-hour span – Ashley drank two liters in nearly 20 minutes. That’s lesson No. 1.
Secondly, they learned that dehydration shouldn’t be treated with just water because the body also needs sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes (think Gatorade, Powerade, Pedialyte). Having too much water and not enough electrolytes can be extremely dangerous, if not fatal – which was the case for Ashley.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, the most common symptoms of hyponatremia (low sodium levels in blood) include nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, fatigue, lack of energy, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, twitching cramps, soreness, seizures, coma, and/or restlessness.
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