A non-fatal case of sodium toxicity

J Anal Toxicol. 2004 Sep;28(6):526-8. doi: 10.1093/jat/28.6.526.


A non-fatal case of sodium toxicity in a six-year-old boy is presented. Hypernatremia is the clinical term for an excessive concentration of sodium relative to water in the body. The diagnosis of hypernatremia was made at serum sodium (Na(+)) concentrations exceeding 150 mEq/L, and few people have been reported to survive concentrations greater than 160 mEq/L. This case involves a six-year-old boy who was taken to the hospital following a seizure attack, and lab analyses revealed serum sodium (Na(+)) levels of 234 mEq/L and serum chloride (Cl(-)) levels of 205 mEq/L. Clinical tests ruled out diabetes insipidus, dehydration, renal pathology, and other primary causes of hypernatremia. The child's purported history of pica, and the lab results indicating corresponding increases in levels of serum sodium (Na(+)) and serum (Cl(-)), led to a diagnosis of acute sodium toxicity by ingestion of sodium chloride. A search of the boy's house led to the discovery of rock salt in the cabinet and a container of table salt. Extrapolating from the serum sodium (Na(+)) level, it was estimated that the child had ingested approximately four tablespoons of rock salt, leading to the acute toxicity. A literature search revealed that the serum sodium (Na(+)) concentration in the present report was the highest documented level of sodium in a living person.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Hypernatremia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Pica / complications
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / chemically induced
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / physiopathology
  • Seizures / chemically induced
  • Seizures / physiopathology
  • Sodium / poisoning*


  • Sodium