You may have never heard of bacteriostatic water, but you’ve almost certainly seen it being used. Bacteriostatic water is a highly purified and sterilized water solution that stops the spread of bacteria without killing them outright, hence the ‘static’ in bacteriostatic. (Bacteriostatic Agents) It is primarily used to dilute or dissolve medications to the appropriate levels for injection into the body, and most commonly, it is seen in hospitals, suspended in clear bags with IV tubes hooked up to the patient. However, bacteriostatic water also has a variety of other uses, both in hospitals and for over-the-counter use. Here are three little-known and interesting bits of information about the properties and uses of bacteriostatic water.
1. Bacteriostatic Water Can be Used Repeatedly
Bacteriostatic water is often confused with sterile water. While both solutions are sterilized, the benzyl alcohol in the bacteriostatic solution stops bacterial growth; because of this, while sterile water can only be mixed with medications once, bacteriostatic water can be used multiple times. (What is Bacteriostatic Water?) This is why bacteriostatic water and sterile water are not interchangeable–both can become contaminated after use, but any bacteria contaminating bacteriostatic water can’t reproduce, and thus won’t act as infectious agents. However, it is important to note that bacteriostatic water still has a shelf life. While it can be used for repeated injections, most medical experts recommend discarding the solution after 28 to 30 days, as the benzyl alcohol can lose its effectiveness over time.
2. The Solution Can Be Injected in a Variety of Ways
Because bacteriostatic water is sterilized and (thanks to the lack of bacteria-killing antibiotics) won’t react adversely with other medications, it can be administered in a variety of ways. The three ways that bacteriostatic water is injected are as follows: intravenously, intramuscularly and subcutaneously. Intravenous injection is the type you’re likely most familiar with, and it refers to injected of a solution directly into veins with a needle. In intramuscular injection, bacteriostatic water is injected into a muscle, which can be useful in a variety of circumstances, including for the injection of muscle-building substances such as HGH. Subcutaneous injection refers to injections under the skin, with cutaneous meaning pertaining to the skin. Which method of injection is used depends on the type of medication being administered, and is decided by the administering medical professional.
3. It Can’t Be Used for Neonatal Medications
One of the only drawbacks of bacteriostatic water is that it can’t be used to administer any neonatal medications. This is because benzyl alcohol, the active agent in bacteriostatic water, is toxic like other alcohols. While the amount in bacteriostatic water isn’t harmful to humans in most cases, it can cause unsafe blood pressure changes in infants four weeks of age or younger. Because of this, when medications must be diluted and administered to infants, other mixtures must be used, such as sterile water in some cases. Other than this, however, bacteriostatic water is extremely safe, as it rarely induces any side effects and those present are usually caused either by the medication it is mixed with or by contamination of the water beforehand.
Bacteriostatic water is one of the most commonly used solutions for administering medications via injection. Because it is extremely safe and useful for diluting or dissolving various medications It is often available over the counter as well as for medical use, which makes it ideal for those looking to administer medications, growth hormones or other substances at home. And while it won’t remain effective forever once opened, the benzyl alcohol in bacteriostatic water can be counted on to prevent bacterial growth for up to 30 days. With its variety of uses and minimal side effects, it’s clear why bacteriostatic water sees frequent usage both inside medical facilities and out.