The parents of a 5-year-old girl were charged with murder Friday after allegedly forcing their daughter to consume more than 2 litres of Pepsi and water.
Alexa Linboom was forced to swallow multiple 12-oz. bottles of grape soda over one or two hours as a sort of punishment after drinking part of her stepmother’s grape soda. Alexa became immobile and then comatose after vomiting, screaming in pain, and urinating on herself, according to the Associated Press. According to a 2012 autopsy report, the child’s enormous consumption of liquids caused her brain to expand and ultimately herniate. Alexa was officially judged a homicide after succumbing to acute fluid intoxication.
While drinking water is beneficial to our health, consuming an excessive amount of water — or, in this case, soda — in a short period of time can be lethal. Our kidneys are designed to maintain the equilibrium of our bodies by regulating the amount of water and salt that departs. However, if a person consumes more water than the body can handle, the kidneys become overwhelmed. When the surplus water begins to infiltrate the cells, the situation becomes perilous.
When it comes to water intoxication, the quantity ingested matters more than the type, according to Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency care physician at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital. However, soda can compound the problem by resulting in an increase in fluid as the carbonation breaks down.
Acute fluid intoxication, also known as water intoxication or water poisoning, happens when the electrolytes in blood cells and brain neurons become diluted to the point of no longer functioning. As more water enters the body, sodium ions exit the cells, which are necessary for cell and neuron function, and notably for carrying nutrients throughout the body.
Hyponatremia is a condition in which the body’s sodium levels are abnormally low, as Glatter describes. Symptoms can manifest at varying rates depending on how quickly an individual’s salt levels decline. These symptoms may mimic those associated with alcohol intoxication, and individuals may experience nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, headaches, and confusion. Additional muscle weakness and difficulty breathing may occur in extreme cases, both of which can escalate to a coma and even death. Frequently, the individual suffering from hyponatremia will experience a seizure.
Hyponatremia causes the brain to enlarge with fluid in the head region of the body, a condition known as cerebral edoema. Due to the skull’s confinement, the brain has nowhere to go but downward into the brain stem, where it interferes with the body’s respiratory system, eventually causing the individual to stop breathing and die.
Seizures and other medical complications can be avoided if hyponatremia is recognised and diagnosed early and treated with either water restriction or particularly concentrated IV sodium solutions.