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Is Swallowing Ocean Water Bad For You?

Also Known As: sea water, salt water



Short answer

Although accidentally swallowing a bit of ocean water shouldn't cause any harm, swallowing large amounts is indeed bad for you. Excessive consumption of salt water can cause severe dehydration.



Long answer

The human body requires water in order to live. The ocean consists of salt water, which the human body is unable to process for the purpose of hydration. Drinking liquids with high salinity, such as ocean water in small amounts will not cause much harm to the body. Consuming large amounts of ocean water is very hazardous and can cause death.

The concentration of salt in the ocean is 75% greater than that of the human body. Drinking salt water increases the amount of work that the body has to do in order to eliminate it. Seawater dehydrates the body, rather than hydrates. Body functions begin to decrease and suffer because of the lack of water in your system. Side effects of dehydration due to drinking seawater will set in quickly. These side effects include dry mouth and rapid heartbeat. Low blood pressure, dizziness, and headaches are also early signs of dehydration.

If you have consumed a large amount of ocean water, you will experience confusion and become lethargic. Continued consumption of ocean water without any consumption of fresh water to counter the side effects will eventually result in vomiting and unconsciousness. These initial symptoms will worsen if you continue to ingest salt water. Kidney failure will occur once your body can no longer produce urine. Your body needs usable, fresh water in order to produce urine.

Swallowing a small amount of ocean water by accident will make you thirsty, but it is not deadly. However, it should never be consumed at will. In addition to severe dehydration, ocean water can contain industrial pollutants such as hydrocarbon pollution, biological waste, nuclear waste and bacterial plant toxins. These can cause various illnesses, including cancer and radiation poisoning, and can even lead to death. 

Possible short-term side effects

  • dry mouth
  • increased heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • lethargy

Possible long-term side effects

  • severe dehydration
  • kidney failure
  • unconsciousness
  • death in extreme cases
  • illness associated with pollution

Ingredients to be aware of

  • salt
  • over 20,000 kinds of bacteria
  • industrial pollutants

Big is swallowing ocean water bad for you

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Written by DeeAnne Oldham | 05-04-2016

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
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