We’ve all heard of (if not experienced) food and drink poisoning, but did you know there’s also water poisoning? This unusual disease, also known as water toxicity or water intoxication, happens when too much water is ingested in too short a period of time – and it can be lethal.
Unfortunately, Ashley Miller, a 35-year-old mother of two, died as a result of water intoxication after drinking 64 ounces of water in 20 minutes. She went on vacation with her family for the Fourth of July weekend, which she spent largely on a boat on Lake Freeman, an Indiana reservoir.
“They were out on the boat all week and long Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday,” her brother, Devon Miller, explained, adding that his sister was badly dehydrated and that drinking water didn’t help. She began to feel lightheaded and had a severe headache at one point.
Ashley Miller drank four 16-ounce bottles of water during a 20-minute period to relieve her headache and dizziness – for comparison, that’s how much water you’re meant to drink in a day. It wasn’t until she and her family got home on Tuesday (July 4) night that things began to go downhill.
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 not looking good.’”
While her husband and two daughters are still in grieving, they are comforted by the fact that she was an organ donor at the time of her death. Ashley Miller’s heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and long bone tissue will effectively save the lives of five people.
When you feel thirsty, especially on a hot summer day, your first instinct is to drink water. While it’s a fantastic place to start, the Millers learned two things regarding dehydration and water consumption that they want other families to know in order to avoid a similar 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, and 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 the blood) include nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, fatigue, lack of energy, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, twitching cramps, soreness, seizures, coma, and/or restlessness.