Water Intoxication in Infants
For healthy adults, nothing seems to quench a thirst better than plain, pure water. We're encouraged to drink several glasses a day to keep our systems in balance. But for children under 1 year old – and especially during the first nine months of life – drinking too much water can be dangerous.
In fact, according to pediatricians like James P. Keating, MD, retired medical director of the St. Louis Children's Hospital Diagnostic Center, too much water dilutes a baby's normal sodium levels and can lead to seizures, coma, brain damage and death.
Breast milk or formula provides all the fluid healthy babies need. If a mother feels her baby needs to take additional water, it should be limited to two to three ounces at a time and should be offered only after the baby has satisfied his hunger with breast feeding or formula.
Dr. Keating also recommends that parents avoid participating in infant swimming lessons. "Repeated dunking of infants can cause them to gulp water and has caused seizures in the infants at the poolside," he says.
Since the brain is the organ most susceptible to water intoxication, a change of behavior is usually the first symptom in older children. They may become confused, drowsy or inattentive. They also may suffer from blurred vision, muscle cramps and twitching, poor coordination, nausea and vomiting, irregular breathing and weakness. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your pediatrician.