Kokoda hikers’ deaths linked to hyponatraemia

A STUDY of hikers on the Kokoda Trail has confirmed the often overlooked and potentially fatal risk posed by excess water intake.

Researchers camped two days’ walk into – and two days from the end of – the track, where they took blood samples from 191 passing trekkers over four days. 

Among 191 trekkers they identified three cases (1.6%) of hikers with mild exercise-associated hyponatraemia (EAH) – a condition viewed as a possible cause of recent unexplained deaths on the 96 km track through the Papua New Guinean jungle.

“The study showed that EAH is prevalent on the Kokoda Trail,” wrote the authors from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital emergency department. 

“Strategies for education and prevention of EAH on the Kokoda Trail should be similar to those already established in competitive endurance events… chiefly focusing on only drinking in response to thirst.”