Fit from drinking water too fast
October 9, 2012 5:51 AM   Subscribe

My 14 year old daughter had a short 'fit' after drinking water too fast, does anyone know what could have happened and should we do any medical follow up?

We were at lunch 10 mins ago and my daughter who was late for lunch sits down talks awhile and then drinks a whole cup of water in one go. She then made a comment about having drunk the water too fast, she then became unresponsive and went pale.. we thought she was joking but her head then fell forward and she appeared to be very stiff. She was unresponsive for about 15-20 secs. We got her out of her chair and tried to get her into the recovery position when she then recovered. She now seems without any problems, she did not seem to choak, as she did not cough up any water. She was dizzy at first and is now finishing lunch. We were about to ring an ambulance when she 'recovered'. We are now wondering if it is worth taking her to hospital, as we are afraid that without any more symptoms they won't do anything else. Does anyone have a guess about what happened to her and if further medical intervention is required
posted by foleypt to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Make an appointment with her physician.
posted by grouse at 5:58 AM on October 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

We are now wondering if it is worth taking her to hospital


we are afraid that without any more symptoms they won't do anything else

There are many tests/scans they can do to check if there's anything wrong with her.

If nothing else, imagine if this (the blackout) had happened when your daughter was crossing the road, or riding her bike or something. The fact that she had just drunk the water may be a red herring, maybe she had a fit due to some other cause. I definitely recommend seeing a doctor.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:58 AM on October 9, 2012 [14 favorites]

IANAD, but you should her to a doctor as soon as you can. If she's OK now she may not need urgent care, but if it was indeed a period of unconsciousness, it could be something you need to have taken care of.

Have you asked her what it felt like when she was "out"? My mother has epilepsy and describes her fits as feeling very tight, and then as if she has fallen asleep.
posted by fight or flight at 5:59 AM on October 9, 2012

Think of drinking the water as coincidence. Unless something very obvious was present (dehydration or famine), they will probably want to check for other causes.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:05 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Loss of consciousnesses is one of those things where you should always immediately seek medical attention, regardless of other symptoms, finances, time constraints, etc. I don't know how to emphasis the always part of that sentence enough. ALWAYS.
posted by Apoch at 6:06 AM on October 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

Ok, follow up, we rang her Doctor and he said that a chilled drink on an empty stomach could do this as 'an extreme reaction' but that as long as it did not happen again and as long as she was not vomiting etc and seeing as we had an appointment for next monday for the doctor (on another matter) we should just observe her carefully for the rest of the day and leave it until the consult. Fainting or blacking out is how I'd describe it, and I had also heard that it was a serious symptom, not to be ignored. Has anyone else ever fainted following drinking a chilled drink on an empty stomach?
posted by foleypt at 6:17 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

No, but I've definitely had dizzy spells and such that came on suddenly and passed. Almost passed out when I gave blood, too hot of a bathtub, pain from sprained ankle. It's the body's reaction to overload so it's not common, but things like this happen in the right circumstances. I've also passed out once or twice in my life, didn't see a doctor (probably should have, but my mom wasn't a "doctor first" kind of person) and I'm fine, so it could be a one-off (and that is really more likely) but could also be a sign of something more serious.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:24 AM on October 9, 2012

Unfortunately, your fear that since the symptom has passed, medical professionals might not do anything may be spot on. And from your followup, it sounds like that's what's happening.

An anecdote that may be of interest to you:
Last year, I had a fainting episode that was very scary - before fainting I felt like I was being "crushed" inside of a waterbed, and after fainting I couldn't stand or walk for almost an hour without becoming faint again. I happened to be with a nurse at the time who had one of those blood pressure/pulse monitors you clip to your finger, and while I can't remember the exact numbers, they were both dangerously low, so it was obviously something physiological happening. I went to my regular doctor the next day who refused to run any tests on me, even a CAT scan, saying that since the fainting spell had passed, trying to figure out what happened would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and actually told me this kind of thing is more common in "emotional women" than men (you can't make this up!). He was really unconcerned but told me that if it happened again to go right to the ER.

A few months passed and it actually did happen again, except this time I hit my head something fierce on the way down. Yet again, when I came to, I did not go right to the ER (I was in a post-syncope haze, what can I say). The next day my head was aching, I was feeling unusually tired, and was having trouble saying sentences the way I wanted them to come out, so at THAT POINT, I did go to the ER. They finally did a cat scan, a blood test, pumped me full of fluids, and maybe did some other tests I can't remember. In the end, though, THEY were not at all concerned about the fainting EITHER! They diagnosed me with "post-concussive syndrome" from hitting my head but did not seem interested in trying to determine the root of the fainting, and even when I asked multiple times, they didn't have much to say about it - told me it could have been caused by one of a million things, and next time to come in during the episode.

It hasn't happened again, and I don't know how I'm going to be able to get myself to the hospital while unconscious if it does, but that's neither here nor there. My point is that if your healthcare experience is anything like mine, I strongly encourage you to rush right to the doc if this happens again, do not pass go, do not wait to see if she recovers on her own. You may not get any answers otherwise.
posted by srrh at 6:34 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

IANAD, but I used to be a fainter, and I've gotten very sick from gulping cold water after a long workout. It's a vasovagal response, and as you can read on the wiki, there are a lot of different things that could have triggered it. Probably even a combination of things. More relevant to your circumstance is that the vagus nerve (which triggers the vasovagal response) can drop your pulse rate if it's stimulated by things like... drinking very cold water.

I would trust your doctor's advice, keep her from gulping any more ice water, and show up for the consult next Monday. They'll likely run some blood tests, heart monitoring, and a general check-up. It could just be that she's prone to fainting. If so, it's not a huge deal. She'll figure out what triggers it, how to feel it coming on, and how to prevent it.
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:35 AM on October 9, 2012 [15 favorites]

As a teen, I used to pass out with extremes in temperature.....getting hot, starting to run, and jumping up too fast. (Never from drinking water but it could be related). I was given a tilt-table test and determined to have a heart rhythm problem. Nothing serious, just something I needed to be aware of. Neuro-Cardiogenic Syncope. My cardiologist said that it was called "the vapors" in the old days and pretty common among young women. Sounds worse than it is but definitely have her Dr check her heart rhythms.
posted by pearlybob at 6:35 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Absent of other symptoms I think you're okay waiting for your next Monday appointment. My thoughts, and of course IANAD:

- she was dehydrated, so a bit more susceptible to whatever event happened. She might have been running because she was late to lunch, she might have convulsed her throat muscles a bit chugging the water, and indeed the cold water hitting the stomach - any of those things might have disrupted the blood flow momentarily.

On preview - that vagus thingy that specialagentwebb mentioned...
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:37 AM on October 9, 2012

I'm glad you called the doctor! I did want to share that I came dangerously close to passing out after drinking a gulp of cold Diet Coke on an empty stomach this past weekend. I thought of starting an Ask thread about it! It's happened to me several times in my life and I do not have any serious medical issues.
posted by something something at 6:39 AM on October 9, 2012

Empty Stomach = low blood sugar, combined with the vasovagal response. That's got to be a seriously empty stomach.

Does your daughter restrict food, or does she have a fast metabolism? See if you can do a fasting blood sugar test to rule out hypoglycemia.

She may be the kind of person who needs to eat small, protein rich meals throughout the day.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:45 AM on October 9, 2012

Thanks everybody! We feel better now we have a probable explanation for what happened. I thought when it was happening that she was choking or having an epileptic fit.

The rest of her day's activities are now cancelled and she is spending the rest of the day reading on the sofa of my home office, where I can keep an eye on her.

For the information of any other parent trying to decide what to do following a fainting fit. I found the following checklist on the website of a pediatrician, which also reassures me that waiting for more symptoms or the Monday appointment is the correct thing to do.

Times we should see someone in the office for an appointment.
Note: Dizziness and fainting episodes are best handled with an appointment and not a walk-in visit in the
1. Your child faints more than once on the same day.
2. Your child fainted and still feels faint after one hour.
3. Your child has fainting happen frequently.

Call 911 immediately after a Fainting Episode.
1. If your child is still unconscious or difficult to wake up after 2 minutes.
2. If the fainting is caused by choking.
3. If there is difficulty breathing.
4. If there is weakness, they are not moving well, or blue or gray skin color.

Times your child should be seen at the Nationwide Children’s Emergency Department.
1. If your child faints then is acting confused for more than 5 minutes after the episode.
2. Muscle jerking or shaking during fainting episode.
3. If the fainting followed a head injury.
4. If the fainting followed an injury to the stomach.
posted by foleypt at 7:09 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Was coming to chime in and cite the vagus nerve response. This happened to me this summer for the first time in my life, under very similar circumstances (over-hungry, dehydrated, sudden ingestion). I'm assured it's quite normal and nonemergent, and it hasn't happened again.
posted by Miko at 4:15 PM on October 9, 2012

I had a few weird fainting episodes when I was around that age due to heat and exertion. after about age 15 it never happened again.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:17 PM on October 9, 2012

Agreed to all--you were right to get her to the doctor but it's also probably nothing to worry about. This has happened to me with gulping an overly carbonated drink--woke up on the kitchen floor with soda dripping on my head. I've also had a brief faint from a coughing fit, for what are apparently related reasons.
posted by sarahkeebs at 7:57 PM on October 9, 2012

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