Hyponatremia is typically called as water intoxication. Take note that sodium and water lost to perspiration is replaced only with water, thus leaving the body low in sodium. Even though this has always been a concern during military training, the increasing cases of hyponatremia are often due to drinking water while engaging in endurance sports.
Heat exhaustion or hyponatremia
Individuals who engage in marathons or other endurance sports have end up confused and even collapsed during events due to hyponatremia. Nevertheless, many participants in these events become confused and collapsed due to heat exhaustion, dehydration or heat stroke.
The need to stay hydrated during periods of exertion especially in hot climates makes it hard to recognize the symptoms of hyponatremia. Take note that severe dehydration and heat exhaustion are similar to hyponatremia. Just like hyponatremia, they are also common while exercising during hot weather.
Indications of hyponatremia
If the following signs and symptoms are present, it simply indicates that an individual is suffering from hyponatremia.
- Muscle cramps
- Slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
- Seizures in severe cases
Remember that little can be done for hyponatremia outside the hospital setting, thus distinguishing between hyponatremia and dehydration is vital. The symptoms are strikingly similar that proper assessment must include an interview with the individual and witnesses.
First aid for hyponatremia
An individual with confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness or loss of consciousness require medical attention right away. You have to call for emergency assistance right away regardless of the cause.
Dehydration and heat exhaustion are strikingly similar to hyponatremia. As for heat stroke, it has its own set of distinct symptoms and considered as a serious emergency that requires immediate medical attention. You have to determine if the individual is properly hydrated. If witnesses can confirm that the individual has been drinking at least a pint of fluid every hour during exercise, consider the possibility of hyponatremia. As for cases of rapid massive water intake such as during a fraternity initiation, consider the possibility for hyponatremia as well.
The individual suffering from hyponatremia requires salt. In minor cases when nausea is present, before dizziness, cramps or confusion occur, the individual will feel better with intake of salty food. Just be cautious not to manage dehydration as hyponatremia and recommend the intake of salty foods when the individual actually requires fluids. Try to assume any individual who complains of thirst is dehydrated.
It is vital to avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen when hyponatremia is suspected. Remember that these pain medications will only worsen the symptoms experienced by the individual.
It is advised not to engage in strenuous activity under warm weather. This will force the individual to drink more fluids quickly, but it might not be beneficial if too much water was taken.