Drinking Cold Water Can Cause Deadly Medical Condition

By Dave Basner

April 4, 2024

There are so many dangers in the world, from poisonous snakes to falling trees to unstable homes, you might wonder if anything is safe anymore, and you'd be right to think that. Even the most innocuous of things can be harmful, like a glass of cold water. It turns out the refreshing beverage can actually cause a serious medical condition, and one man learned that lesson the hard way.

Franklin Aribeana was 18 when he first noticed that after taking a sip of cold water following a workout, his heart would palpitate. It was so pronounced the first time that upon taking off his shirt, his heart was visibly pounding in his chest. Soon after seeing that, he passed out. Similar incidents continued for Franklin for 17 years, causing 25 hospital visits. Eventually, doctors discovered the issue: when the cold water he would drink came into contact with the back of his throat, it would irritate his vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the heart. Since his heart was already beating quickly from his exercise, the irritation caused an erratic heartbeat.

Franklin already had been diagnosed with an enlarged heart and an irregular heartbeat, so he was more susceptible to erratic beats. Anyone though can be affected by a disruption to the vagus nerve. It happens to many people if they jump into cold water, something called the "diving reflex," which slows the heart rate to help conserve oxygen, but for Franklin, all he needed to trigger it was cold water in his throat. The reflex would also cause his blood pressure to drop, leading to his fainting, and with how everything disrupted his heartbeat, it could've been fatal.

To correct the problem, doctors closed off the connection between his vagus nerve and his heart. Now, Franklin wants his story to be a warning to others who might be feeling strange after drinking cold water. He stated, "If you feel something, don't be afraid to tell your parents. Don't be afraid to tell your physician next time you go in for an appointment, or if it feels emergency-related enough, don't be afraid to go to the emergency room."

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