The Dangers of Drinking Salt Water and How to Safely Consume It in Emergencies

The Dangers of Drinking Salt Water and How to Safely Consume It in Emergencies

Aaron Belyea

Why You Should Not Drink Salt Water
Drinking salt water can pose significant risks to your health. The primary danger lies in the high salt (sodium chloride) concentration in seawater. Here are the key reasons why consuming salt water should be approached with caution:

  • Dehydration: The human kidneys can only produce less salty urine than salt water. Therefore, to expel the excess salt from your body, you need to urinate more water than you drink, leading to severe dehydration.
  • Hypernatremia: Consuming salt water increases the sodium levels in your blood, a condition known as hypernatremia. This imbalance can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, seizures, and even coma.
  • Kidney Damage: The kidneys bear the brunt of filtering out the excess salt, which can lead to kidney strain and potential damage over time. This is a serious concern when it comes to saltwater consumption.
  • Digestive Issues: Drinking salt water can irritate the lining of the stomach and intestines, causing cramping, bloating, and diarrhea.
  • Brain Damage: Severe dehydration and hypernatremia can lead to brain cell shrinkage, resulting in confusion, hallucinations, and potentially fatal brain damage.

Safely Consuming Salt Water in Emergencies
In dire situations where drinking salt water is the only option, it's crucial to know how to make it safer for consumption. Desalination is the key process to remove the salt, and understanding this can be a lifesaver in emergencies. Here’s a step-by-step guide to desalinating salt water using simple methods:

Solar Still Method

  1. Gather Materials: You will need a large plastic sheet, a container to collect water, a smaller container to hold the salt water, and a rock or weight.
  2. Set Up the Still: Dig a hole in the ground large enough to fit the container of salt water. Place the container in the center of the hole.
  3. Cover the Hole: Stretch the plastic sheet over the hole, securing the edges with rocks or dirt to create an airtight seal.
  4. Place the Rock: Put a small rock in the plastic sheet's center so it hangs over the container. The lowest point should be above the empty container.
  5. Collect Fresh Water: The sun heats the salt water, causing it to evaporate. The water vapour condenses on the plastic sheet and drips into the container, leaving the salt behind. This process yields a small amount of fresh water.

Boiling and Condensation Method:

  1. Boil the Salt Water: Heat the salt water to a rolling boil in a pot with a lid.
  2. Capture the Steam: Place a concave lid on the pot to catch the steam. The steam will condense into fresh water on the underside of the lid.
  3. Collect Fresh Water: Position a smaller container inside the pot or use a separate device to catch the dripping condensed water. Ensure that the freshwater does not mix with the salt water.
Benefits of Swimming in Salt Water and Breathing Sea-Salty Air

While drinking salt water is harmful, swimming in salt water and breathing in sea-salty air have several scientifically proven benefits.

Benefits of Swimming in Salt Water

  • Skin Health: Salt water contains minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium, which can help hydrate and improve skin health. They can also reduce inflammation and promote healing of skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
  • Muscle Recovery: Salt water's buoyancy can help reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery after physical exertion, making it an excellent medium for exercise and rehabilitation.
  • Detoxification: Salt water can help to cleanse and detoxify the body by drawing out impurities through the skin, promoting overall wellness.
  • Relaxation: Swimming in the ocean can calm the mind and body, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.

Benefits of Breathing Sea-Salty Air

  • Respiratory Health: Inhaling salty air can help clear mucus and reduce inflammation in the respiratory system, alleviating symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, and sinusitis.
  • Immune System Boost: Sea-salty air is often rich in negative ions, which can help to enhance mood, improve sleep quality, and boost overall immune function.
  • Mental Health: The negative ions in sea air can also increase serotonin levels, contributing to feelings of well-being and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The Recap:

  1. Only drink salt water unless you absolutely have to. If you are in a situation that requires you to drink it, use the methods listed above.
  • Drinking salt water is not advisable due to its severe health risks.
  • Desalination methods can provide a safer way to consume it in an emergency.
    2. While on the other hand, swimming in salt water and breathing in sea-salty air offer numerous health benefits. We're a fickled lot, we are.


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