Bacteriostatic water is water that is used to dissolve or dilute medicines so that they can be safely injected into a patient. It is sterilized water, but not simply sterilized water. Bacteriostatic water gets its name because of the addition of benzyl alcohol, which stops the growth of bacteria. It does not kill bacteria outright. Benzyl alcohol is benign when used by everyone save newborns and is found in teas, certain fruits and essential oils.
Bacteriostatic water is acidic and has an average pH of 5.7, though it can be as low as 4.5 and as high as 7.0. Pure water has a pH of 7.0, which means it is neutral. Water found on the surface or in a well has a pH of between 6.0 and 8.5. Some types of bacteriostatic water use salt instead of benzyl alcohol.
Bacteriostatic water usually comes in 30 milliliter vials made out of a special polyolefin. They often have a flip top. This type of plastic vial doesn’t need to be pressurized nor does it need a vapor barrier. When the vial is opened the water should be used within 28 days. After this time it is best to discard it. It should be stored in a dark place at temperatures between 60 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bacteriostatic water is safe in most applications. If there are side effects, they are most likely due to the water being contaminated or because of the drug that has been diluted or dissolved in the water. Pure bacteriostatic water should not be injected into a patient because it can destroy red blood cells. Other side effects are tissue death, or necrosis; fever; blood clots in the veins; infection at the injection site and the forming of abscesses, which are masses that are filled with pus, dead tissue and bacteria. They are often tender to the touch and feel warm. Even when it has a drug dissolved in it, bacteriostatic water shouldn’t be given to babies who are younger than a month old. The alcohol in the water can cause dangerous changes to the baby’s blood pressure. Doctors should avoid using bacteriostatic water to treat pregnant women unless it is necessary.
Why Doesn’t Bacteriostatic Water Have a Bacteria-Killing Agent?
Bacteriostatic water doesn’t have an agent that kills bacteria outright for safety reasons. Some of these agents can cause adverse reactions in the patients by interfering with the drugs. This doesn’t happen with benzyl alcohol.
Can Sterile Water Replace Bacteriostatic Water?
Plain, sterile water should not be used to replace bacteriostatic water. The preservatives that allow bacteriostatic water to have a long shelf life are not found in sterile water. This means that a container of sterile water must be used right away after it is opened. To use sterile water for injections for as long as bacteriostatic water is used puts a patient at risk for infection.
How is Bacteriostatic Water Used?
Bacteriostatic water is intravenously, which means the solution flows through a needle placed in the patient’s vein. It can also be delivered through a needle inserted into the patient’s muscle or a needle inserted just beneath the skin, or subcutaneously. Whenever the vial of water is used it should be checked to make sure that it is perfectly clear and has no discoloration.
When is Bacteriostatic Water Not Used?
Bacteriostatic water isn’t used to help patients replace fluids that they have lost, and it’s not used for epidural anesthesia. The water needs to be isotonic before it is used, which means it has the same concentration of dissolved substances that are found in the patient’s blood. Bacteriostatic water is not used for drinking and is not used for intravenous drips.