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Sea water

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Most children like to drink water from the bath, pool and river, especially salty sea water is attractive to them. However, salt water in the human body contributes to dehydration and its systematic use can cause serious health problems.

In this article we will talk about the sea water, its properties as well as the possibilities of using the sea water.

Why can’t we drink sea water?

We’ve talked a lot about reverse osmosis in the water filters but human, plant and animal cells have been using the osmotic properties for thousands of years. Living cells are covered with a semi-permeable membrane that allows water, ions and molecules to pass through. This membrane is very soft and flexible and the shape of the cell is maintained by the inside and outside pressure of the cell. Osmosis is designed to maintain equilibrium in cells by transferring solute from a less concentrated environment to a more concentrated environment.

When pure water enters the body, it does not change the balance of cell because its salt content is equivalent to human cells. Salt water, on the other hand, disrupts this balance. When salt water surrounds a cell, the fluid flows out of the cell to rebalance the system. As a result the cell is compressed and the dehydration process takes place. The reverse phenomenon is cell expansion and death due to water overflow. This phenomenon can be observed when pure distilled water is administered intravenously to a person instead of physiological solution.

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In simple words: salt water causes dehydration and increases a person’s need for clean water. Of course one sip of the sea water will not pose big threat to health and life but systematic use of salt water (if there are no other sources of drinking water) can lead to death.

Microbes in seawater

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Microorganisms found in the water are another reason why it is not recommended to consume sea water. They can also actively reproduce in sea water, just like in any other water body, especially in the warm season. Microorganisms such as Escherichia coli, enteroviruses, hepatitis A and rotavirus are common.

The probability of the spread of infectious diseases is determined by several factors:

  • water salinity: fresh water is the most favorable environment for pathogens but they can also survive in salt water, especially if the salinity is low.
  • water temperature: the warmer the water, the more favorable the conditions for bacteria and viruses.
  • presence of sewage: Escherichia coli is almost always present in faecal sewage. Discharge of wastewater without treatment is quite common problem in many countries.
  • crowded swimming areas: a medical certificate of health is required when going to the pool, even if the water is disinfected. No one asks for a certificate on the beaches and the more people there are, the more likely someone is sick.

Are there potable sea water?

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Yes, such water really exists in the world. Kona Nigari water is included in the list of the most expensive waters in the world. It is obtained in the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands at a depth of more than 600 meters from an underwater current that is formed during the melting of the sunken glaciers in Greenland and Iceland. This water is not particularly salty, it meets the requirements of drinking water in all the specified parameters.

Sea water in medicine

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In the past a common practice was to drink, drip into the nose and inhale seawater that is collected in a water bottle. Nowadays this “grandmother’s” treatment method is no longer used because bacteria multiply rapidly in closed containers and waits for a moment to settle on the human mucous membrane and multiply further.

Today on the basis of purified and disinfected sea water pharmaceutical preparations are designed for spraying or instillation into the nasal cavity. They are recognized as safe and are used for hygienic procedures.

Sea water helps against runny nose. In this case the osmotic properties of seawater are useful because when a concentrated salt solution gets on the nasal mucosa, it is able to reduce edema (“pulling” water directly from the surrounding tissues). For daily hygiene a salt solution containing 0.9% salt is used and does not cause a shift in osmotic processes, unlike sea water which contains 2.2 – 2.7% salt.

Drink plenty of clean water, follow evidence-based medicine and be healthy!

Read also: Can salt water be consumed?

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