Saturday, June 07, 2008

Giving babies too much to drink may cause seizures

Water is the best way to hydrate people of almost every age, but giving too much water to a baby can cause a seizure. Melissa Schroeder never gave her daughter Mia water before age one, and hasn't given a drop to five-month-old Ezra Rose yet either. "I always thought I was airing on the side of not giving water as a bad thing," said Schroeder.

Pediatricians at Johns Hopkins Children's Center say her decision is smart. They say babies under six-months-old should never have water, and it's best to stick to breast milk or formula until age one. Too much water dilutes sodium from a baby's blood, which alters brain activity and can cause a seizure, they say. "That causes a low volume of sodium in the bloodstream so they have less sodium available to the cells in their muscles, heart and brain where it needs to go," said pediatric emergency physician Dr. Jennifer Anders.

Doctors at Hopkins see a few babies every month admitted because of hyponatremia, especially during the summer, possibly because many parents like Melissa don't know about it. "I've never heard of that before, no," said Schroeder. "No, i've never heard of that but even if I gave her water she would refuse to eat it," said Qi Chen.

"That actually is very scary, I would have never would have had any idea that that would have been dangerous," said Steffani Sanders.Symptoms of water intoxication include unusual irritability, low body temperature, facial swelling and seizures.

Doctors say the condition is very hard to detect, and often the first sign a parent notices is the seizure. "If they're brought to medical attention right away they should be fine and recover quickly," said Dr. Anders.Schroeder says she's not going to take any chances and will wait until Ezra Rose is one before giving her water.

Doctors say formula and breast milk have the perfect nutrition to nourish babies. Infants instinctively know when they need to eat and doctors say parents should just follow their lead.


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