US mum dies of water toxicity after consuming almost 2 litres of water in 20 minutes

Photos of Ashley Summers and her family
Photo credit: Ashley Summers / Facebook

A mother-of-two has died after drinking almost two litres of water in just 20 minutes, causing the level of sodium in her blood to plummet. 

Ashley Summers, a 35-year-old daycare worker from the midwestern state of Indiana, developed hyponatremia - also known as water toxicity or water intoxication - after consuming roughly 64 ounces (about 1.9 litres) in a short period of time, causing her brain to suffer severe swelling. 

The mum had been enjoying a leisurely day at Lake Freeman, a reservoir outside of Monticello, Indiana, early last month when she began to experience symptoms of dehydration, including lightheadedness and a headache.

Speaking to local media following her death, Summers' brother, Devon Miller, said no amount of water could satiate his sister's thirst. 

"She just felt like she couldn't get enough water. When they left the sand bar to when they got to the dock, it was about a 20 minute boat ride... she drank four [500ml] bottles of water in that 20 minutes," he said.

According to reports, Summers collapsed in the garage after returning home later that day and never regained consciousness. 

At the hospital, doctors diagnosed her with hyponatremia: a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in the blood is too low. The amount of sodium is often diluted when there is too much water in the body: when the level is too low, excess water moves into the cells, causing them to swell. This swelling can be dangerous, especially in the brain, since the brain cannot expand past the skull - which can progress to seizures or coma.

"It was a big shock to us all. I was just like, 'this is a thing?'" Miller added.

The family had been enjoying a few days at the popular destination for the country's annual Independence Day holiday weekend, arriving on Saturday, July 1 and leaving on Tuesday, July 4. According to Miller, Summers' intense dehydration began on the last morning and by that evening, he had received a call from his other sister that Summers had collapsed and been taken to the Indiana University Health Arnett Hospital. 

"My sister, Holly, called me, and she was just an absolute wreck. She was like, 'Ashley is in the hospital. She has brain swelling, they don’t know what’s causing it, they don’t know what they can do to get it to go down, and it’s not looking good'," Miller told local media. 

According to the US National Kidney Foundation, mild hyponatremia may not present any symptoms. In severe cases, or when the sodium level drops too low or too quickly, symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, confusion, fatigue, headache, muscle weakness, seizures, or coma.