glass of water being filled
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
August 9, 2023 ·  4 min read

Mom Dies from Water Toxicity After Drinking Too Much Water

We’ve all been there – you’ve been out in the heat all day and are thirsty. What’s the first thing most of us do? Try to rehydrate by drinking as much water as you can. What many of us don’t know, however, is how dangerous drinking too much water too quickly can be. Tragically, this family learned about hyponatremia, aka water toxicity, after losing their sister, wife, and mother from this dangerous condition.

Mother of Two Dies From Water Toxicity After Drinking Too Much Water

Thirty-five-year-old mother-of-two spent this past Fourth of July weekend with her husband, young daughters, and family in her favorite summer spot: On the lake. Ashley Summers had spent the day boating on Lake Freeman. According to her brother, Devon Miller, she was feeling rather dehydrated as they returned to shore on their last vacation day. During the 20-minute boat ride back to shore, Devon said Ashley drank four 500ml bottles of water. Apparently, she told them that she just couldn’t seem to satiate herself. (1)

“Someone said she drank four bottles of water in that 20 minutes. I mean, an average water bottle is like 16 ounces, so that was 64 ounces that she drank in the span of 20 minutes. That’s half a gallon,” Devon said.

Later that day, when the family returned home, Ashley lost consciousness in their garage. Emergency services rushed her to the nearby hospital, where they found her to have brain swelling. The doctors did everything they could to try and bring the swelling down, but to no avail. Sadly, Ashley never again regained consciousness.

The doctors determined that Ashley had died of water toxicity, also known as hyponatremia. The condition is caused when one drinks too much water in too short an amount of time. The body can’t process or balance the water that fast, leaving a massive imbalance in sodium levels. This then leads to various states of organ failure.

Understanding Water Toxicity: How Drinking Too Much Water Can Be Dangerous

Drinking water is essential for survival, but drinking too much water can harm your health. When we consume too much water, water toxicity or hyponatremia can occur. Hyponatremia is a condition where the body has an abnormally low level of sodium in the blood, which can have severe consequences. (2)

How Water Toxicity Happens

Water toxicity occurs when we drink more than our body can eliminate through natural processes like sweating and urination. When this happens, the body’s sodium level drops, leading to an imbalance of electrolytes in the blood.

The kidneys play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of electrolytes in the body. However, if we drink a large amount of water in a short period, our kidneys may not be able to remove the excess water fast enough, and the concentration of electrolytes will become diluted.

Read: 9 Reasons Your Toes Cramp and How to Deal With Them

What Water Toxicity Does to the Body

Hyponatremia can be mild or severe and depend on the amount of sodium depletion in the bloodstream. Mild symptoms can include nausea, headache, fatigue, and confusion, while severe cases of hyponatremia can result in seizures, brain malfunction, and even death. Symptoms of water toxicity typically worsen as the condition progresses, so prompt medical attention is essential if you suspect you or someone else may be experiencing hyponatremia.

It is essential to note that athletes are particularly vulnerable to water toxicity, especially during long-distance endurance activities. When we exercise, we naturally lose electrolytes through sweat, so consuming large amounts of water without replenishing electrolytes can result in hyponatremia.

How to Prevent Water Toxicity

Preventing water toxicity/hyponatremia is relatively straightforward. Here are a few ways you can prevent it:

1. Drink Water in Moderation

Drinking water in moderation is essential to prevent water toxicity. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that adult men consume approximately 3.7 liters of water per day, and adult women drink 2.7 liters of water daily. However, these recommendations may vary based on different factors like age, gender, and activity levels.

2. Be Mindful of Your Electrolyte Levels

If you’re planning on exercising for a prolonged period, it’s essential to ensure that you’re replenishing the electrolytes you lose through sweating. Consuming drinks that contain electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and magnesium, like coconut water, or sports drinks like Gatorade, can help you maintain the right balance of electrolytes in your body.

3. Listen to Your Body

It is essential to listen to your body and pay attention to the signals it gives you. Symptoms like nausea, headaches, and mental confusion are warning signs that your body is experiencing water toxicity.

4. Seek Medical Attention Immediately

If you suspect that you or someone else may be experiencing hyponatremia, seeking medical attention as quickly as possible is essential. A healthcare professional can perform a blood test to check the sodium level and recommend appropriate treatment.

The Bottom Line

Water is essential for our bodies, but drinking too much can be dangerous. Understanding the importance of moderation and electrolyte balance can help you avoid the risks of water toxicity. You can keep your body healthy and functioning correctly by listening to your body, staying hydrated, and replenishing electrolytes when necessary.

Keep Reading: 7 Things That Contribute to Fluid Retention And How To Manage Symptoms


  1. Mother of two dies from drinking too much water.” Independent. Josh Marcus. August 2023.
  2. Water Toxicity.” NCBI. Basil V. Peechakara and Mohit Gupta. June 27, 2022.