Salt Tablets are used to treat dehydration. They have been recommended for their ability to prevent or reduce the risk of developing hyponatremia (low sodium levels) when taken in excess. Hyponatremia occurs when too much water is consumed without adequate intake of electrolytes such as sodium and chloride. Symptoms include confusion, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting and seizures. A person may experience these symptoms even if they are not drinking enough fluids. Hyponatremia can cause death from brain damage.
The most common causes of hyponatremia are excessive alcohol consumption, taking certain prescription drugs like diuretics, and consuming large amounts of coffee or other caffeinated beverages before bedtime.
In some cases, the condition may occur after eating foods high in fat or cholesterol such as fatty fish or red meat. These conditions increase the body’s need for salt.
Hyponatremia can also develop due to using illicit drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and heroin.
Salt tablets are available over the counter and in pharmacies. Some brands contain only a small amount of sodium while others have more than 100 milligrams per tablet.
The dosage varies depending on how much salt is needed to counteract the effect of hyponatremia.
The recommended adult dosage is one to two tablets every four hours, to a maximum of eight tablets in twenty-four hours. For infants and children the dose is half a tablet per year of age.
While mild cases of hyponatremia can be treated by increasing fluid intake, severe cases require immediate medical attention. In such cases drinking too much water without enough salt can actually cause the cells in the brain to swell and cause brain damage or death.
If you are suffering from hyponatremia you should see your doctor immediately. They will either advise you to stop taking the tablets and start taking a saline IV drip or take you into hospital for an exchange transfusion.
There is ongoing medical research concerning the use of salt tablets in treating sports-related hyponatremia, a condition in which there is a decrease in blood sodium levels caused by drinking excess amounts of water in combination with excessive sweating.
Some cases have been fatal. Overheating, nausea and confusion are some of the earliest signs and can be followed by drowsiness, seizures, coma and death.
“The use of sports drinks which contain sodium is preferable to salt tablets for preventing hyponatremia, however if you do feel unwell or start developing any of the symptoms listed above it is very important to seek urgent medical advice.”
Sources & references used in this article:
Plasma volume restoration with salt tablets and water after bed rest prevents orthostatic hypotension and changes in supine hemodynamic and endocrine variables by WW Waters, SH Platts, BM Mitchell… – American Journal …, 2005 – journals.physiology.org
Fluid-loading solutions and plasma volume: astro-ade and salt tablets with water by SM Fortney – 1994 – books.google.com
Increasing dietary salt alters salt taste preference by M Bertino, GK Beauchamp, K Engelman – Physiology & Behavior, 1986 – Elsevier