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What Are the Symptoms of Salt Poisoning?

By Donna Johnson
Updated May 17, 2024
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Table salt is not only a commonly used seasoning, but also contains sodium, a nutrient needed by the human body. Sodium helps muscles and nerves work properly and ensures that the body retains the proper amount of fluids. Too much sodium is bad for the body, however, and can even lead to hypernatraemia, or salt poisoning. Symptoms of this illness include excessive thirst, change in mental state, and muscle twitching or stiffness.

Typically, an individual's sodium intake alone will not be sufficient to cause hypernatraemia, although patients who receive large doses of solutions, such as sodium bicarbonate, may be at risk. More often, the condition arises when people either do not consume enough water or lose excessive amounts of fluids due to conditions including diabetes, severe burns, or even excessive vomiting and diarrhea.

Increased thirst is often an initial symptom of salt poisoning. Thirst is triggered by the increase in sodium levels in the body. Many patients only experience excessive thirst for a short time or not at all, however, and patients who are already suffering from an altered mental state are less likely to exhibit this symptom.

If this problem comes on very quickly or is very severe, the lack of fluids in the body can affect the brain. In these cases, the brain can actually shrink, often causing enough tension on blood vessels in the organ to make them rupture and leak blood. These physical changes may cause the patient to become irritable, delirious, or even lapse into a coma.

If the muscles are deprived of fluids, they may also shrink or undergo other changes. This may cause them to twitch uncontrollably, resulting in a visible tremor. Patients suffering from hypernatraemia may also find their muscles becoming very rigid, leading to an inability to move their limbs properly.

Treatment options for salt poisoning may vary by patient. Typically, the patient will receive intravenous fluids and water by mouth to restore the proper balance of sodium and fluids in the body. This treatment is usually completed within 48 hours, but it is vital that the patient does not receive the fluids too rapidly or slowly. A medical professional must carefully evaluate the cause, duration, and speed of onset to determine the correct time frame for completion of treatment. Diabetic patients may also require treatment with anti-inflammatory medications and hormones.

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Discussion Comments

By anon995131 — On Apr 05, 2016

To the person who said table salt is just chemicals with added ingredients, you must realize everything is a chemical. Also, to the person who asked which types of salts are poisonous, it basically depends on the dosage. Some salts are worse than others.

By anon989253 — On Feb 26, 2015

Pink himalayan salt= good.

Table salt is a chemical with added ingredients= Bad.

By anon950527 — On May 11, 2014

I am doing a presentation about salt. Which salt types are poisonous?

By anon343345 — On Jul 29, 2013

Salt in excess can cause headaches, hypertension and blurry vision. Some sodium compounds cause much more trouble than others.

By feasting — On Aug 12, 2012

@giddion – Yes, I have heard of saline abortions. I think that they are cruel and should have been banned a long time ago.

I heard a story of one lady who survived a saline abortion. She weighed only a couple of pounds at birth, and she wasn't expected to live, but she did. She has cerebral palsy, but she has learned to live with it.

It's crazy to think that something we sprinkle on our food every day can cause so much damage. I guess that's why when food has been grossly oversalted, we can't stand to eat it. Our bodies know that it isn't good for us, and they cause us to be repulsed.

By giddion — On Aug 11, 2012

Has anyone here ever heard of using salt poisoning for an abortion? I only recently heard about it, and it really bothered me to find out what happens to the baby because of the salt.

I heard that abortionists would inject saltwater into the womb. The baby would swallow it, and then the baby would slowly burn to death.

Within a day, the mother would give birth to the dead fetus. I know that many areas have banned this type of abortion, but I think that it is still being performed at times right here in the United States. It seems so inhumane that I'm very surprised anyone still uses this method!

By shell4life — On Aug 10, 2012

My friend's dog nearly died from ingesting too much salt. I didn't even know that salt poisoning in dogs was possible before this happened.

She had spilled a shaker of salt on the floor, and she thought nothing of the fact that the dog was licking it up. Well, he must have really loved the taste, because he licked up all of it before she could clean it up!

Not long afterward, he started to stagger around. He vomited, and he went into a coma. She panicked and rushed him to the vet, who put him on IV fluids to flush him out.

He survived, and we learned some valuable information from this incident. The vet told her about some items containing salt that can be harmful to dogs, like paintballs and play dough.

By cloudel — On Aug 10, 2012

My mom got sodium poisoning after taking some medicine to clear out her bowels before a colonoscopy. The medicine contained a high amount of sodium, and she didn't drink the full glass of water after taking it that she was supposed to drink.

The medicine gave her diarrhea, but that was to be expected. What she didn't expect was the rapid rate at which she lost all those fluids. The diarrhea just wouldn't stop, and she started to feel delirious.

I called her doctor, and he told me to get her to the hospital quickly. She had to have intravenous fluids to flush out the sodium.

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