More than 4 quarts of water per day is only going to be necessary in situations of extreme sweating. If you are not sweating heavily, this much water may just place an unnecessary burden on your kidneys. Excessive fluid intake usually becomes dangerous when large volumes are drunken in a short period of time - beyond the bodies ability to clear the excess.
Symptoms of fluid overload include a gradual mental dulling, drowsiness, weakness, confusion, coma, convulsions and death.
- This can dilute the electrolytes in your blood and cause low blood-sodium levels (hyponatremia).
- Excessive urination can flush out essential electrolytes, minerals and other compounds.
Hyponatremic encephalopathy can result when too much water is ingested too quickly and the brain swells due to a sodium imbalance. This is most common amongst athletes, military personnel and the elderly. There were 125 Army hospitalizations for hypontraemia between 1989 and 1996. These cases were associated with excessive water drinking and were often mistaken for dehydration and patients were unfortunately given additional water.
Due to heat exhaustion, Marine Corps recruits drank ten to twenty-two quarts of water in a short time period in July1995 which resulted in nine cases in one day. Five of them developed seizure activity and progressed to delirium and/or coma, but were eventually returned to full duty.
In July 1997 there was one fatal case where a healthy eighteen-year-old drank three quarts of water prior to arriving at a rifle range. He drank five more quarts before 11am and began to feel dizzy. He therefore rested and drank two more quarts and waited to see an improvement. When his symptoms did not improve he drank ten more quarts over the next two hours. He became increasingly confused and lethargic and lost consciousness. He later died.
Older people are often advised to drink much more water than they can handle because the thirst sensation is less accurate as the aging process progresses. However, high fluid intake can cause them to lose sleep, as they will need to use the bathroom during the night and can also worsen congestive heart failure. Many older patients may already be at risk of hyponatremia because their kidneys reabsorb too much water.