UAE summer: Drinking too much water? Here’s how and why it can get toxic

Excessive water intake can lead to a condition called water intoxication or hyponatremia, which, in rare cases, can prove dangerous

by

Ruqayya Al Qaydi

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Published: Fri 5 Jul 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 9 Jul 2024, 9:42 PM

As the summer in the UAE intensifies, staying hydrated is crucial for good health. Drinking water helps regulate body temperature and prevent heat-related illnesses, but it is important to avoid overconsumption, according to experts.

Excessive water intake can lead to a condition called water intoxication or hyponatremia — which happens when low sodium levels in one’s blood is abnormally low.


Low concentration of sodium in the blood causes cells, including those in the brain, to swell, which could result in health complications. Symptoms range from headaches and nausea to confusion, seizures, or even coma in rare cases.

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Dr Heidy Wagdy, a general practitioner at Medcare Medical Center, Al Furjan West, told Khaleej Times: “Healthy kidneys can process up to 0.8 to 1.0 litres of water per hour. Consuming more than this amount, especially in a short period, can overwhelm the kidneys and lead to water intoxication.”

Posing as ‘experts’, some content creators have been ‘advising’ residents to drink as much water as possible.

While hydration is vital, residents should avoid intake of excessive water. Dr. Aditya Bhabhe, consultant in Nephrology at NMC Royal Hospital in Sharjah, cautioned against consuming more than three to four litres of water within a short period, “as this can be harmful, particularly if repeated throughout the day”.

He advised drinking water steadily throughout the day, “responding to the body's thirst cues”.

Dr Khalid Shukri, who specialises in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine at Wealth Medcare Medical Center, recommends a daily intake of two litres during the summer. This could be upped for individuals working in strenuous outdoor activities. However, he warned against consuming more than 1.5 litres of water per hour as it may “dilute electrolyte levels in the blood, posing health risks”.

Dr Wagdy offered some practical tips for residents to maintain proper hydration:

  • Drink regularly: Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. Sipping small amounts throughout the day is more effective than consuming large quantities at once.
  • Balance electrolytes: Include beverages or foods with electrolytes, especially if engaging in intense physical activities. Sports drinks can help but be mindful of their sugar content.
  • Eat water-rich foods: Incorporate fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumbers, and oranges into your diet to boost hydration.
  • Monitor urine colour: Light-coloured urine is a sign of proper hydration.

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