Don’t drink ocean water! Swimming in the open water can be invigorating, but one thing is clear: salt water can be harmful to your health. This is good advice for a number of reasons. For one, ingesting saltwater can be harmful to your health.

People Don’t Drink Ocean Water for Very Good Reasons

Besides the fact that saltwater tastes very salty, there are plenty of reasons that people don’t drink ocean water. Beyond taste, saltwater just doesn’t play nicely with our bodies.

Now, it is true that our bodies do need a certain level of sodium chloride, or salt, to live. However, you can easily have too much of a good thing. Gulping down seawater can put your body over its salt limit rather quickly.

When it comes to our biology, the cells of the human body depend on a specific amount of salt to stay alive. At higher levels, it can be deadly. Do yourself a favor and don’t drink ocean water.

Don't drink ocean water!

Fresh Water and Kidney Health

Inside our bodies, the kidneys do a lot of the work to keep you healthy and regulated. According to the National Institutes of Health, your kidneys remove wastes and extra fluids from your body. Your kidneys also remove acid that is produced by the cells of your body, and maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals in your blood —such as sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. Without this balance, nerves, muscles, and other tissues in your body may not work normally.


High salt levels can overwork the kidneys and put a person in harm’s way. The job of the kidneys is to help filter contaminants from the body. In turn, this will help to regulate your body throughout the day. However, an overabundance of saltwater can quickly become too much for your kidneys to handle.

When operating normally, blood passes through to the kidneys for filtering. At this point, excess water passes through a semi-permeable membrane into a collection channel inside the kidney. When there is a high concentration of sodium in the blood, it overloads this process. The blood cannot be properly filtered and this can lead to serious health issues. A person’s body may experience dehydration, high blood pressure and even organ damage.

Is Salt in My Pool the Same as Ocean Water?

In this post, we’ve mostly talked about why people don’t drink ocean water. However, we have also frequently talked about saltwater pools on this blog. While the water isn’t exactly the same in these pools as in the ocean, the principle remains. Saltwater is not good for human consumption. Any consumption should be avoided.

In fact, don’t drink any water from swimming pools at all. Besides the troubles of too much sodium, there are also problems like bacteria and waterborne illnesses. For an example of these, take a look at our feature on the Crypto parasite.

Play it safe and don’t drink ocean water or pool water. Of course, don’t get too worried either. In general, we’re referring to straight-up drinking saltwater. If you accidentally swallow a little bit here and there, you’ll likely be fine. Your body needs freshwater to counteract the saltwater. To this end, always stay hydrated. Keep a bottle of water with you just in case you get thirsty. Again, can’t stress this enough: don’t drink ocean water!

For more detailed answers about drinking water from public and private sources, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set up an official FAQ page. There is lots of helpful advice on the CDC’s home page. It is an excellent resource for water safety.