Dangerous Food Dares: Water
Although water is essential for the body to function (it makes up approximately 60% of the adult human body according to the U.S. Geological Survey), too much of it — as the maxim goes — can be a bad thing. Mirroring the other food dares in our series
The Chubby Bunny
water-drinking dares may sound harmless, but they present serious consequences.
WHAT IS A WATER DRINKING DARE?
Although the specific parameters vary case-by-case, water drinking dares generally involve two factors: how much water is consumed and the rate of consumption. A proliferation of videos on YouTube shows both individuals and groups of two or more people taking on the various dares. Kids, teens, and college students are the principle participants in these dares, but adults engage in this behavior too, and with lethal results. In 2007, Jennifer Strange, a 28-year-old mother of three, died after drinking 7.5 liters of water in a radio contest to see who could drink the most water without using the bathroom. Other notable deaths include 21-year-old Matthew Carrington and 18-year-old Walter Dean Jennings; both died during fraternity hazing in 2005 and 2003 respectively.
WHY IS WATER SO DANGEROUS?
The above mentioned people all died from a condition called water intoxication, or dilutional hyponatremia. Water intoxication occurs when the body’s normal sodium balance is rapidly diluted by an inordinate intake of water (the stomach can hold about 1.5 liters of water). To counter balance this, water seeps into the cells to utilize water found there. The resultant swelling that occurs in the cells can adversely affect the brain, heart, liver, and kidney function. When the brain swells, its ability to regulate breathing is handicapped.
Warning signs and side effects include headaches, bloating, cramps, nausea, vomiting, personality changes, irritability, confusion, breathing difficulties, muscle weakness and twitching, drowsiness, and disorientation. Detecting water intoxication early on is critical to stop hyponatraemia, which can lead to seizures, coma, and even death.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Talk to your children about the dangers of water dares and peer pressure. Explain to them what water intoxication is and its consequences. Teach them the rule of thumb: if something doesn’t seem like a good idea, it probably isn’t. In other words, go with your gut. Also, make sure that they know they can call or text you whenever they feel uncertain or uncomfortable in a situation (at a party for example). Open communication is of the utmost importance when it comes to keeping your family safe. Discuss a plan ahead of time on how your child can extricate themselves from these types of situations if they feel uncomfortable. Lastly, let them practice saying “no” in various life situations so that if they need to stand up for themselves against peer pressure, it will be easier for them.
As with most food dares, don’t assume your child knows better, or that they are “too smart” to try the water challenge. Take the time to have a frank discussion with them about the dangers of this and other food dares and always set a good example, by not participating in these challenges yourself.