When you consider how important it is for hospitals to be free of germs and bacteria that could infect open wounds during surgery or impact people with weakened immune systems, it is easy to think that all the water is sterilized. But, this is simply not true. Water that may be potable and safe for the average American to drink may cause sickness in people from other nations. The same is true for Americans who travel abroad and then suffer from traveler’s diarrhea, cholera, and chronic infections when they consume food or water in other nations.
When is Sterile Water Used in a Hospital?
Sterile water is chiefly used when patients need injections or IV infusions. Because these injections and infusions are being pumped directly into the bloodstream, the risk of sepsis (blood poisoning) is high if the sources of water are contaminated. Sterile water may also be used for irrigation when cleaning wounds and during surgery. Sterile water may also be used for humidification when patients are undergoing low-flow oxygen therapy.
What Are the Dangers of Stocking Sterile Water?
Hospitals may confuse sterile water with IV solution bags. This can be a deadly mistake because of the small amount of sterile water that is mixed with medications or used in IV bags, a process called hemolysis may occur. Hemolysis is a process of destroying red blood cells and releasing their hemoglobin into the patient’s bloodstream. Because the hemoglobin carries oxygen to the body, the process can reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood and lead to the equivalent effects of suffocation, including death. The only recognizable distinction between a prescribed bag of sterile water and a sodium chloride solution may be limited to a small red box indicating that it is sterile water and not an injectable solution.
Our hospitals achieve most of their sanitation by using regular soap and water. The use of antibacterial soaps is falling out of popularity due to the spread of superbugs. It is not surprising that the water coming out of the taps is not completely sterile.
The distilled sterile water that is available in hospitals must be carefully managed and separated away from look-alike products. The employees of the hospital must all be trained regarding the dangers of injecting sterile water without adding a soluble drug to change its chemical properties. Hospitals have recently suffered from a shortage of sterile water to mix in small amounts with insulin and other drugs.
The irony is that sterile water can both save lives and take lives when there is any negligence. Considering this, there is no room for error. Hospitals must take great care in the future, now that the problem is manifest.