What Happens to Your Body When It Consumes Too Much Water

March 29th 2016

Whether you want to Netflix and chill in a hot tub or spend some time unwinding in a hot shower, soaking in water is a recipe for relaxation. But despite its therapeutic benefits, bathing for too long can have a damaging impact on the body.

We don't mean to alarm you, but the truth is that overexposure to even the most basic and necessary elements can produce negative results. Here's three reasons you need to be careful about an H2Overdose.

1. Breakdown of the skin

You know that moment when you're bathing and your fingertips start to look like raisins? Most of us should take that as a cue to hop out of the shower. According to a video posted by SciShow, the wrinkles that appear on your fingertips is an involuntary response prompted by your nervous system. The nervous system causes the blood vessels in your fingertips to contract, which causes the skin's outer layer to wrinkle. This exposure to too much water eventually leads to the breakdown of skin cells.

This is what happened to scuba diver Tim Yarrow, who spent 10 days submerged in water in a shopping mall in South Africa, the Huffington Post reports. After a week and half in water, the skin on Yarrow's hands began to disintegrate.

Tim Yarrow underwater stuntHuffington Post/Outrageous Acts of Science -

Why? The skin cells in your hands and feet are more prone to break down when they are exposed to too much water because they contain more dead cells that absorb water more easily than the rest of the skin on your body.

2. Loss of body oils and skin injuries

Over exposure to hot water can remove your body's natural oils and cause rashes on your skin, according to some dermatologists. 

"Hot water is bad for two reasons," founder of Cynthia Bailey, M.D. told the Huffington Post. "First, it removes too much of your natural oils (much like it works better than cold water for cleaning greasy pots and pans). Second, hot water brings blood circulation to your skin, which is why your skin turns red like a lobster. With the circulation comes inflammatory building blocks to create more itch and even a rash."

According to the Today Show, soaking in hot water for too long can not only dehydrate  and irritate the skin, but also wash away good bacteria and increase the risk of infection. Therefore, it is recommend to keep your bathing time brief and use lukewarm water.

3. Overhydration

While it is dangerous not to drink enough water, it just as dangerous to allow too much water to enter your bloodstream.

According to Shape magazine, overhydration or hyponatremia occurs when too much water disrupts the electrolyte balance in your blood cells. The excess water dilutes the natural balance of sodium in your cells and causes your body's water levels to rise and your cells to swell. Most cells in your body can expand to accommodate the excess water, however, brain cells have a more difficult time doing so according to the Scientific American.

"Rapid and severe hyponatremia causes entry of water into brain cells leading to brain swelling, which manifests as seizures, coma, respiratory arrest, brain stem herniation and death," chief of nephrology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School M. Amin Arnaout told the Scientific American.

Severe cases of hyponatremia can lead to: nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, seizures and even death among other things.

Although 3-6 million cases of hyponatremia are reported each year, only 1 percent of those cases are severe. Furthermore, a study published in the Clinical Journal of American Society of Nephrology found that those who died from hyponathermia had also suffered from an severe underlying illness that compromised their kidneys. (Kidneys "control the amount of water, salts and other solutes leaving the body," according to the Scientific American.)

At the same time those who exercise heavily in heat and humid places are more prone to this condition due to their attempt to rehydrate themselves from a loss of fluids during a workout. According to Mayo Clinic, those who drink too much water participating in marathons or other physically demanding activities are at an increased risk of experiencing hyponatremia. But not to worry, hyponathermia is highly avoidable if you remember to drink water in moderation and replenish yourself with electrolyte-rich beverages.

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