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Giving Babies Too Much Water May Cause A Seizure

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Updated June 12, 2008

With increasing temperatures during the summer months, your first instinct is to keep hydrated. While this may do the trick for adults, hydrating your baby with too much water may induce a seizure.

Giving an infant too much plain water to drink can dilute important electrolytes, such as sodium, in the body and brain. Combine this with an infant’s inability to flush out water quickly from the body, and this can reduce the electrolytes the infant needs for normal functioning. This is referred to as "water intoxication," and this can lead to a variety of problems, including seizures. Some other symptoms of water intoxication could include:

  • swelling or puffiness, especially to the face and extremities
  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • weakness
  • confusion
While a seizure can be frightening to witness in an infant, seizures caused by water intoxication are very preventable. Additionally, once the infant’s electrolytes are corrected, the seizures will stop and no long-term effects are usually present. To avoid this, follow these helpful tips:
  • Do not give a baby plain water. Breast milk or formula is always best.
  • Do not over-dilute formula.
  • Infants that are dehydrated, due to vomiting or diarrhea, are especially at risk for water intoxication. Use care when rehydrating the infant.
  • If your baby has a seizure or is showing signs of water intoxication, take them to the nearest emergency room.

Source:

Bruce RC, Kliegman RM. Hyponatremic seizures secondary to oral water intoxication in infancy: association with commercial bottled drinking water. Pediatrics. 1997 Dec;100(6):E4.

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