Not long ago, while soaking in a hot tub at a hot springs resort, I accidentally swallowed a mouthful of saltwater and couldn’t help but wonder, “Can drinking saltwater or seawater make you sick or even kill you?” What are the negative consequences of drinking salt or seawater?” Drinking either seawater or saltwater is obviously bad for you, so I decided to look into my first question, as well as a couple of others, and share my findings.
Of course, a small amount of salt or seawater will not kill you! Drinking enough saltwater, on the other hand, will almost certainly make you sick (causing nausea and vomiting), and large amounts can cause dehydration, which, if left untreated, can lead to death. Depending on your body, current hydration, and whatever else was in the water that you swallowed, even a small gulp of seawater could make you sick.
Inevitably, the concentration of salt (NaCl) in the water must be considered. Consider ordinary saline, such as that used in nose sprays. It is a salt and water solution. It has the same amount of salt and water as a normally hydrated person. If you drink this, it will not increase or decrease your hydration, or make you thirstier or less thirsty. It has a salt content of 9 grammes per litre of water. There are many variables when it comes to seawater, but on average, seawater has a concentration (salinity) of about 35 grammes per litre of water.
How much seawater can I safely drink?
The best answer is none; however, it depends on your current level of hydration, but it is strongly discouraged that you drink any. Even a single swallow of seawater has the potential to make you sick to your stomach and cause you to vomit. Drinking saltwater will, at the very least, bring you one step closer to dehydration.
Anyone who has swallowed water while swimming in the ocean knows that it will not kill you; however, if you are thirsty and drink seawater, it will not satisfy your thirst but will increase it. It will also cause you to urinate more frequently in an attempt to neutralise or normalise your body’s salt levels.
Our bodies are finely tuned machines with lots of backup systems in place. Sodium is one of many substances that our bodies need to function properly. Not surprisingly, our bodies have lots of backup systems to keep the sodium levels in our blood exactly where they need to be.
Most of us know that too much salt in our diets is bad for people with high blood pressure. But most people don’t realize that salt actually can be poisonous. Taking in a lot of sodium can overwhelm our back-up systems and cause dramatic increases in sodium levels. That’s true if we take it all at once, or if we take in large amounts over a period of days or weeks.– NCPC (National Capital Poison Center)
Can drinking salt water make you throw up or vomit?
Yes, drinking salt water can cause you to vomit. People used to use salt to make themselves vomit after being poisoned, but this is a dangerous practice that has killed some. Simply put, the NCPC does not advocate drinking salt water to induce vomiting for any reason.
If you drink seawater, how much freshwater do you need to drink to offset the seawater you drank?
According to the answers I found, you would need to consume more than double the amount of distilled (no salt) water than you did seawater to neutralise without adding any hydration.
If we mix one litre of distilled (no salt) water with one litre of seawater, we get 17.5 grammes of salt for each litre of water present. This is still significantly more than the recommended daily salt intake. According to Healthline.com, “health experts recommend between 1.5 and 2.3 grammes of sodium per day.” However, mounting evidence suggests that these guidelines may be too lenient.
People with high blood pressure should not consume more than 7 grammes of salt per day, but if you’re healthy, the amount you’re currently consuming is probably safe.” To compensate for 1 litre of seawater, you should drink more than 3 litres of water, but drinking too much water at once is dangerous and strongly discouraged.
Essentially, there are numerous variables to consider, as well as some controversy. Finally, it is undeniable that if getting fresh water is difficult, drinking even a small amount of seawater will not quench your thirst. There is no safe amount of seawater to drink if you are in a survival situation.
What are the side effects of consuming saltwater or seawater?
Consuming too much saltwater or seawater can have a number of negative consequences. These are some of the possible side effects:
- Increased High Blood Pressure
- Calcium deficiency
At the most extreme, your ability to cope will deteriorate as you become dehydrated. If you do not drink enough water to counteract the effects of excess sodium, the brain and other organs will receive less blood, resulting in coma, organ failure, and death.
Does drinking saltwater or seawater make you crazy?
Simply put, if you try to drink salt water as your primary source of water, you may become dehydrated and eventually develop delirium. So, yes, drinking too much sea or saltwater can drive you insane!
Is it a good idea to do a Saltwater Flush?
I’ve heard that doing something called a Saltwater Flush can be beneficial to your health… However, it appears that this practice is somewhat contentious, and I would advise against it. Drinking a mixture of warm water and non-iodized salt is referred to as a saltwater flush. The combination of salt and warm water has a laxative effect. It usually causes urgent bowel movements within a half-hour to an hour, but it can take longer. Participating in the saltwater flush may cause dehydration, increased blood pressure, calcium loss, nausea, and delirium, as well as the other potential side effects I mentioned above.
If you have any of the following conditions, do not perform a salt water flush:
- heart problems
- kidney problems
- high blood pressure
- gastrointestinal issues, such as ulcers or inflammatory bowel disease
There appear to be only two reasons to try the saltwater flush. First, you are chronically constipated, or you have irregular bowel movements. If you decide to give it a shot, proceed with caution.
Can Drinking Salt Water or Sea Water Make You Sick Bottom Line
It is important to note that seawater can be made drinkable using a simple technique known as desalination. However, in general, a good rule of thumb is to avoid drinking sea or saltwater. Of course, small amounts of saltwater will not kill you, but salt and water should be consumed separately. Remember, a small amount of salt is beneficial, and plenty of fresh water is required!
- Gross, Cliff, Josh DeZeeuw and Ted Simpao. “Awesome Osmosis.” Marine Discovery. The University of Arizona. April 27, 2001. (Jan. 30, 2012) http://marinediscovery.arizona.edu/lessonsS01/blennies/2.html
- Marine Science. “Seawater Composition.” Oct. 8, 2008. (Jan. 30, 2012). http://www.marinebio.net/marinescience/02ocean/swcomposition.htm
- McLamb, Eric. “Earth at a Glance.” Ecology. Sept. 14, 2011. ( Feb. 4, 2012) http://www.ecology.com/2011/09/14/earth-glance/
- Ocean Plasma. “Chemistry of Seawater.” Ocean Health. (Jan. 30, 2012) http://oceanplasma.org/documents/chemistry.html
- Science Learning Hub. “Ocean Salinity” June 22, 2010. https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/686-ocean-salinity
- Stoppler, Melissa Conrad. “Electrolytes.” MedicineNet. ( Feb. 4, 2012) http://www.medicinenet.com/electrolytes/article.htm
- Wedro, Benjamin. “Deyhdration.” MedicineNet. ( Feb. 4, 2012) http://www.medicinenet.com/dehydration/article.htm