Exercise associated hyponatremia: a review

Speedy DB, Noakes TD, Schneider C

Emergency Medicine 2001;13:13-23

This paper reviews the extensive literature on hyponatremia, a common and potentially serious complication of ultra-distance exercise. Fluid overload is the likely aetiology. Fluid intakes are typically high in athletes who develop hyponatremia, although hyponatremia can occur with relatively modest fluid intakes. The development of fluid overload and hyponatremia in the presence of a modest fluid intake raises the possibility that athletes with this condition may have an impaired renal capacity to excrete a fluid load. The bulk of evidence favours fluid retention in the extracellular space (dilutional hyponatremia) rather than fluid remaining unabsorbed in the intestine. Female gender is an important risk factor for the development of hyponatremia. Management and prevention of exercise-associated hyponatremia are discussed.

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