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#27956 - 09/24/12 07:40 AM Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2213
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
Report in The Age.

The coroner said the case highlighted the dangers associated with bushwalking alone and the general perception "that one should drink as much as possible and avoid becoming dehydrated during prolonged strenuous exercise".
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#27958 - 09/24/12 08:45 AM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: wagga]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7235
Loc: Fresno, CA
I dunno... I have seen reports of hyponatremia in inexperienced marathon participants. But for a walker?

Are there a lot of water sources available along that track where the guy could have drunk too much? And what about his reporting being dehydrated?

Would a blood test on the deceased show an electrolyte imbalance?

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#27960 - 09/24/12 10:39 AM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: Steve C]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1549
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Originally Posted By: Steve C


Would a blood test on the deceased show an electrolyte imbalance?


Apparently that's what it did show. Isn't hyponatremia by definition an electrolyte imbalance? Insufficient sodium?

I wouldn't lend too much credence to his self diagnosis of dehydration. Thinking he was dehydrated when he was not is consistent with drinking too much. He was probably sweating and peeing like crazy, and may have assumed he was dehydrating. I think we had a report of (link) possible hyponatremia induced by a similar misunderstanding here recently.
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#27962 - 09/24/12 10:54 AM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: saltydog]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
Anecdotal, non-scientific, observation.

If your electrolytes are out of whack, yes, you can feel thirsty despite drinking copious amounts of water.

I used to have problems with electrolyte imbalances, before I started judicious use of supplements during high altitude hiking. I would feel very tired and thirsty, and no matter how much I drank, I would stay thirsty, but pee alot. Then I would realize that the water was going right through me (doh!). A dose of electrolytes, and I would feel better very fast (maybe 10-15 minutes even). Now that I recognize this, I know what to do (and how to prevent it), but for a time, it was puzzling to me.

P.S. In my case, I don't think drinking too much water "caused" my problems, per se. Rather, I think my electrolytes would get depleted through my exertion, sweating, what-have-you, to the point that drinking more water would not help my situation.

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#27971 - 09/24/12 12:32 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: Akichow]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7235
Loc: Fresno, CA
Saltydog, I missed the part about the blood test in that article. :blush:

In the Sierra, I often get a very dry mouth while hiking. But that is because I am breathing heavily enough (due to climbing), and the extremely dry air. I suppose lots of people will assume the dry mouth is an indication of dehydration, but it isn't. They need to also consider how often they are peeing.

I don't carry extra electrolytes with me when I hike. If I am peeing every couple of hours, and it is mostly clear, then I figure I'm doing ok.

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#27981 - 09/24/12 01:50 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: Steve C]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
It's the situation where you are peeing every 20 minutes, and it is clear, that makes you stop and think....

Thirsty with dark, infrequent pee = dehydration
Thirsty with light, constant pee = electrolyte depletion

Okay, that's enough pee talk for me.

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#27987 - 09/24/12 05:48 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: Akichow]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1549
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
I always carry electrolytes in some form. On our HST hike last year, one of our party, the one drinking the most water, experienced heat exhaustion on the hot, southern exposed climb out of Lone Pine Creek drainage. A good dose of salted sunflower seeds, with only enough water to wash them down, put the situation right.
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#28076 - 09/26/12 09:54 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: wagga]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7235
Loc: Fresno, CA
This was posted on the wpsmb today. INCREDIBLE story. In my non-medical opinion, it is a case of hyponatremia on the Main Mt Whitney Trail.

Posted here: Trying to understand what happened to me by dharma at 09-26-2012 04:32 PM

Please forgive the extremely long post, but I had a frightening experience this past Monday, and trying to understand what happened. Any insight is greatly appreciated.

My original plan, was to sleep at the Portal on Sunday night, and take it very slowly, sleeping at Outpost Camp on Monday, Trail Camp on Tuesday, and then hopefully summit on Wednesday.

I had a permit for 2 people, and I think the first mistake was not canceling my trip when my partner bailed at the last minute. I have hiked by myself quite a bit, so I wasn't concerned, but I should have been. I got to the Portal as planned on Sunday. Had a great time just soaking up the atmosphere, eating, hydrating etc. and attempted to go to sleep around 9pm. Problem was, I couldn't sleep at all. Not a wink. I normally have problems sleeping before a big hike, so this didn't bother me. I continued to try to sleep until 4am, at which time a good many day hikers were heading up, and even with ear plugs I could hear them, so I then gave up and made myself some coffee. After picking up my permit and having an awesome breakfast at the Portal, (and I ate almost all of it), I started on the trail.

I have had issues with dehydration and loss of appetite in the past, so I paid special attention to these. I was eating snacks every hour, and drinking large amounts of fluid, (I had 3 liters of water and 1 liter of cytomax by the time I reached Outpost Camp). I don't feel I was dehydrated, because I drank all my water and Cytomax, and my urine was clear.

Despite not a wink of sleep, I felt surprisingly fantastic. Great appetite and energy level. I took things slow, as I have a chronic knee issue, but still did well. When I got to Outpost Camp, I remember feeling wonderful, and because I arrived earlier than expected, I wanted to take some photos of the meadow. I set up camp, filtered and drank more water, ate a full meal, (I was ravenous) and did my dishes. Out of the clear blue sky, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a fatigued feeling that I've never experienced before. The exhaustion hit me like a brick wall, but I chalked it up to not sleeping the night before. Luckily, everything was prepped for the morning, so even tho it was before 5pm, I decided to go to sleep.

I only slept for 1/2 hour, when I was awoken by a severe headache, the likes of which I have never experienced. I have migraines sometimes, and this was worse. I got out of the sleeping bag to get some Ibuprofen from the bear canister, and when I got back to my camp, there was a woman sitting there in shorts and a tank top, with no daypack visible. I thought it was kinda strange since I had all my clothes and a jacket on, and I was a bit chilled. The woman looked at me and said, "You're not feeling well…you better head back down. Don't worry, I'll walk with you". For some reason, (which is very unlike me) I just said, OK, and started packing up. I didn't even fold anything neatly, I just shoved stuff into my pack and started walking down ahead of her, without even thinking that it was starting to get late. I could hear her walking behind me, but because of the headache, I wasn't talking.

Less than a quarter mile down, I started to throw up. I turned around to talk to the lady who was walking with me to apologize for holding her up, but she wasn't there. At first, I was upset that she said she was going to walk with me, and then left me. It was further down the trail that I came to the frightening realization that she never existed in the first place.

My head was getting much worse, and with a kind of weird detachment, I noticed that I was unsteady, dizzy and stumbling around quite a bit. I remember being puzzled and thinking that since the elevation was decreasing, that I should start to feel better. Unfortunately, I started to feel much worse. When I reached Lone Pine Lake, I stopped to try to drink something, and when I looked up at the ridge, I had the most terrifying experience of my life. I saw corpses hanging from ropes attached to the mountain. There were tons of them, all in orange sleeping bags, with nooses around their necks, hanging from the mountain. It was at this point, that I knew I was in serious trouble, and am not ashamed to say I started to cry. It was now starting to get dark, and I knew I had to get down, so I got my headlamp out, and continued down.

The log crossing was incredibly difficult, as I was so unsteady and dizzy, and I thought I was going to fall. Shortly after that, I did fall several times, (and have the bruised knees to remind me) but I knew I was in big trouble, and just kept telling myself, "get down - keep going - keep going". I was becoming more disoriented and started seeing weird lights and animals crossing the trail, (animals that didn't make sense, like buffalo). All this time walking down, I was completely alone, and didn't see anyone, and I was terrified, particularly when I started having visual disturbances. I am quite sure this is just in my mind, but it looked like there was a dense fog, which made seeing the trail very difficult.

About halfway down, I had an overwhelming feeling to just lay down in the middle of the trail. It was very dark by now, and I was looking for headlamps of other people, but couldn't see any, and never did run into anyone. I didn't know how I was making it in the dark, stumbling around, but I would have these strange amounts of time that I didn't remember at all...coupled with certain times where I seemed to be a bit more lucid and aware. I decided to start counting steps out loud to try and keep focus. This caused me to realize that I wasn't speaking properly. so I knew I had to get down fast. I made it out to the Portal, still disoriented, nauseous and with an excruciating headache, and had trouble finding my car, even though it was close to the trailhead. When I finally found my car, I looked back up on the mountain and saw about 30 sets of headlamps, so I have no idea why I never ran across anyone else. I immediately started driving down, desperate to get off the mountain, completely forgetting that I had additional supplies in a bear box at the campground (I'm so sorry I forgot those).

When I got to Lone Pine, I stopped at a gas station to get something to drink and gas up the car. I was shocked that I wasn't doing any better, and I should have been, since I was no longer at altitude. My head was still feeling like it was going to explode, and although I took 8 more Ibuprofen in addition to the 8 I took up high, they did nothing. I was still disoriented, but at least I wasn't hallucinating anymore. I tried to call my husband, but got voicemail, and left him a crazy, sobbing, incoherent message. Clearly, I should not have been driving, but I wasn't in my right state of mind. About 30 miles outside of Lone Pine, I stopped at a truck stop to try and get some sleep. I could only sleep for about 30 minutes, and the headache was not getting better, so I kept driving. I was just desperate to get home.

I finally arrived home 4 hours after I left the Portal, and my husband was shocked at how bad I looked. He said I was stumbling like I was drunk, and couldn't stand up straight. He also told me that the voicemail I left him didn't even sound like me, and I was babbling and he actually thought it was a crank call at first. He also said he tried to call me back multiple times, but I don't remember the phone ringing once. I have no idea how I drove. I immediately went to sleep, but only slept about 5 hours, still with a headache which persisted into the next day. I couldn't do much of anything yesterday, and the headache, coordination problems and nausea persisted till evening, when I all of a sudden started feeling better.

I was absolutely amazed at how quickly I deteriorated, and the fact that I didn't get better even at sea level. The scariest part by far, were the hallucinations. That was horrifying. Although I feel really tired, all the symptoms are gone now, and I'm just trying to understand what happened. I am familiar with altitude symptoms, but don't understand how I went from perfectly fine, to exhausted, then headache, and a progression of symptoms that sound too severe for the altitude I was at, (and I've been over 10,000 feet many times, including frequent visits to the summit of Mt. Baldy) and the short time period that they occurred. It just seems that the symptoms were so severe, that altitude alone doesn't make sense to me. I am also puzzled as to why I didn't get better after descending, even once home at sea level, until late the next day. Does this make sense to anyone else?

I know that not sleeping the night before was probably an issue, and I should have tried to get a permit for the next day, but I am really trying to figure out what else I did wrong, so I never have to experience that frightening night again. Any input is appreciated, (feel free to be brutally honest) and I do appreciate your taking the time to read this.


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#28078 - 09/26/12 10:50 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: Steve C]
K. H. Offline


Registered: 09/26/12
Posts: 6
Loc: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
The above story was written by me, and I have received a lot of very helpful information. Still don't know exactly what happened to me, but I have a doctor's appointment in the morning, and will post the results here, to hopefully help someone else.

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#28097 - 09/27/12 02:03 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: K. H.]
K. H. Offline


Registered: 09/26/12
Posts: 6
Loc: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
I am glad to report that Hyponatremia was not the cause. It was a very strange combination of a rare type of migraine, (basilar artery migraine) which causes very bizarre symptoms, and the physical stressors of lack of sleep, altitude, exertion, etc.

What is interesting, is that several people who have suffered from this type of migraine, seem to experience strange visual phenomena, including hallucinations, and a great many people even lose consciousness....so I guess I was lucky. For anyone else suffering from migraines, there seems to be unusual connections with altitude and severe symptoms, and lack of sleep. My doctor advised that extra acclimatization days, as well as lots of sleep, seem to minimize the risk of having issues.

Just wanted to follow up and let everyone know what it was.

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#28098 - 09/27/12 02:10 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: K. H.]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7235
Loc: Fresno, CA
K.H., thanks so much for posting again.

So... did the doctor recommend or write a prescription for something to combat the insomnia?

When I backpack, I make sure I have plenty of Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) along. I always take it the first night on the ground, and sometimes continue other nights. I know Benadryl affects some people in that they have a tough time with sluggishness after using it. I'm lucky, I guess, because I don't notice any after effects.

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#28099 - 09/27/12 02:48 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: Steve C]
K. H. Offline


Registered: 09/26/12
Posts: 6
Loc: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
We talked mostly about how to prevent the migraines and eliminate triggers, and he did say I should come back before the next attempt, but we talked briefly about the insomnia. He pointed out that I tend to be a little hyper, and suggested chamomile tea and progressive relaxation, but he also thought a big part was camping at altitude for several days beforehand - kinda give me a chance to settle down instead of driving 4 hours from LA and then thinking I could go right to sleep. LOL

I have made a note to myself to ask about Benadryl before the next trip. Thanks for the suggestion!

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#28100 - 09/27/12 02:53 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: Steve C]
tif Offline


Registered: 09/26/11
Posts: 49
Loc: colton, ca
[quote=Steve C]K.H., thanks so much for posting again.

So... did the doctor recommend or write a prescription for something to combat the insomnia?

When I backpack, I make sure I have plenty of Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) along. I always take it the first night on the ground, and sometimes continue other nights. I know Benadryl affects some people in that they have a tough time with sluggishness after using it. I'm lucky, I guess, because I don't notice any after effects. [/quote]

Regarding benedryl - it's funny... if i take it at home, i tend to be sluggish in the morning. if I take it while camping/backpacking up up more or less ready to go at o'dark thirty and ready to hike. =)

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#28101 - 09/27/12 03:00 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: tif]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1549
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Originally Posted By: tif
Originally Posted By: Steve C
K.H., thanks so much for posting again.

So... did the doctor recommend or write a prescription for something to combat the insomnia?

When I backpack, I make sure I have plenty of Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) along. I always take it the first night on the ground, and sometimes continue other nights. I know Benadryl affects some people in that they have a tough time with sluggishness after using it. I'm lucky, I guess, because I don't notice any after effects.


Regarding benedryl - it's funny... if i take it at home, i tend to be sluggish in the morning. if I take it while camping/backpacking up up more or less ready to go at o'dark thirty and ready to hike. =)


Diphenhydramine is my go-to in the mountains and on a hard construction week, which I have every couple of months. I take it in the form of Tylenol PM so I get the relief from various aches as well. Never without it in the field.
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#28102 - 09/27/12 03:39 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: saltydog]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7235
Loc: Fresno, CA
> ...but he also thought a big part was camping at altitude for several days beforehand - kinda give me a chance to settle down instead of driving 4 hours from LA and then thinking I could go right to sleep.

And that is exactly why I take sleep aids when I go camping. There is no way I can sleep in a mummy bag the first night and get a solid sleep. It's not just the excitement of the driving and the trip, but the completely different environment. I wake up a bunch of times!

> I have made a note to myself to ask about Benadryl before the next trip. Thanks for the suggestion!

K.H, you could just try the Benadryl/Diphenhydramine at home to see how it affects you. It is an otc (over-the-counter) antihistamine or sleep aid. Like saltydog says, it comes in Tylenol PM, or you can get it by itself as a cold/allergy medication.

The one side-effect I noted last trip was that in the morning, my sinuses seemed exceptionally clear. grin

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#28105 - 09/27/12 04:01 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: Steve C]
K. H. Offline


Registered: 09/26/12
Posts: 6
Loc: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
LOL - If nothing else, I could use the clear sinuses! I always tend to get congested when I go into the wilderness. Must have some allergies, but it doesn't bother me too badly normally. I do however, seem to notice it gets worse while camping.

Will definitely try it.

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#28108 - 09/27/12 07:04 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: K. H.]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2213
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
I Googled ...drank too much water... and found this reference:

2007: Jennifer Strange, a 28-year-old woman from Sacramento, California, died of water intoxication while trying to win a Nintendo Wii console in a KDND 107.9 "The End" radio station's "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest, which involved drinking large quantities of water without urinating.
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#28109 - 09/27/12 07:12 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: wagga]
K. H. Offline


Registered: 09/26/12
Posts: 6
Loc: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
I remember that, (my husband used to be a radio station programmer). A nurse actually called in and told them that it was dangerous, and they laughed her off. The woman's family won quite a settlement.

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#28112 - 09/27/12 07:29 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: K. H.]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2213
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
I do occasionally suffer from silent migraine. Not much pain, a hole in my vision, odd auras. Preceded by irritability & diarrhea. Caused by stress. Details at WebMD. Much better than the painful kind.
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#28114 - 09/27/12 08:13 PM Re: Bushwalker Died From Drinking Too Much Water [Re: Steve C]
tif Offline


Registered: 09/26/11
Posts: 49
Loc: colton, ca
Originally Posted By: Steve C
> ...but he also thought a big part was camping at altitude for several days beforehand - kinda give me a chance to settle down instead of driving 4 hours from LA and then thinking I could go right to sleep.

And that is exactly why I take sleep aids when I go camping. There is no way I can sleep in a mummy bag the first night and get a solid sleep. It's not just the excitement of the driving and the trip, but the completely different environment. I wake up a bunch of times!

> I have made a note to myself to ask about Benadryl before the next trip. Thanks for the suggestion!

K.H, you could just try the Benadryl/Diphenhydramine at home to see how it affects you. It is an otc (over-the-counter) antihistamine or sleep aid. Like saltydog says, it comes in Tylenol PM, or you can get it by itself as a cold/allergy medication.

The one side-effect I noted last trip was that in the morning, my sinuses seemed exceptionally clear. grin


Definitely try it at home first - especially if you choose to try tylenol, advil or aleve pm (all use diphenhydramine as the 'pm' part). I can take plain benedryl and tylenol pm no problem. I can take regular advil and aleve no problem. Advil PM gave me horrid and extremely vivid nightmares. Something about the combo just didn't work well for me. I doubt it's a common reaction - but after your last episode on the mountain with the migraine, vivid nightmares wouldn't be much fun either (even if it does mean you're sleeping)

=) tif

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