Man dies of water overdose after drinking 17 pints in eight hours to soothe sore gums
A man died from drinking vast amounts of cold water to relieve painful gums.
Andrew Thornton, 44, ‘ overloaded’ his body after drinking ten litres – more than 17 pints – in eight hours. He had also been drinking at a similar rate for the previous two days as it helped to numb his mouth, an inquest heard. The divorcee, who played football regularly and was physically active in his job as a warehouseman, thought he was being sensible by refusing to take painkillers for gum disease.
He was taken to hospital last December after collapsing at the home he shared with his mother Alice, 65, and her partner in Bradford. Doctors initially thought he was drunk because he was staggering and slurring his words. However his symptoms were caused by swelling in the brain brought on by excess fluid. Doctors put salt back into his body to counter the effects of his water intake, but the following day he had a fatal heart attack.
Pathologist Dr Alan Padwell told the Halifax inquest: ‘He claimed drinking water relieved the problems with gum trouble, though he vomited a lot afterwards. ‘He had been drinking an awful lot of water and vomiting. He had overloaded with water. ‘Your body tells you how much you need. Eat and drink normally and your body will regulate itself.’ Coroner Mark Hinchliffe recorded a verdict of death by misadventure and concluded Mr Thornton died of a heart attack triggered by over-consumption of water.
Mrs Thornton said: ‘He couldn’t walk straight and his right arm had gone limp and was hurting him. 'But we had a look at him and realised he hadn't touched any alcohol – something was just terribly wrong.’ After the inquest Mrs Thornton warned of the dangers of drinking too much water. She said: ‘Andrew wasn’t a stupid man and if he had known how dangerous drinking that much was, he wouldn’t have done it.’
Water overdose dilutes vital salt levels in the blood. Cells and organs then swell and increased pressure in the brain can result in the body shutting down. Mrs Thornton said her son had suffered from pain in his mouth for many years but had never gone to a dentist for treatment. He used mouthwash or drank water to soothe the pain.
Last year two people died in the UK from hyponatremia or a water overdose. Fitness instructor David Rogers, 22, died in April after completing his first London Marathon. Last September Shaun McNamara, 35, was found dead in the bathroom of his York home as a result of excess water drinking.
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