Bacteriostatic water is water that has been formulated to prevent the growth of bacteria. This is usually accomplished by introducing a bacteriostatic agent, such as benzyl alcohol. A common scenario in which bacteriostatic water is used is the dilution of medications so that they can be injected. Although this form of water is quite common, there a number of common misconceptions that persist.
1. Bacteriostatic and sterile water are the same thing.
Sterile and bacteriostatic water are not the same thing. Sterile water has been sterilized, which means that there are no microbes living in it. Sterile water is the first step in creating bacteriostatic water. The second step is adding a bacteriostatic agent. An agent such as benzyl alcohol prevents growth of bacteria and thus lets you depend on that water being sterilized for a longer period.
2. Bacteriostatic water is expensive to make.
Since it is often sold via prescription, this may give the impression that it is difficult to make. It isn’t. It is actually quite simple and cheap to manufacture. There is, however, a process that the water goes through to ensure that it is safe to use and meets certain standards. That does add to the cost, but even so, the water is relatively inexpensive.
3. Bacteriostatic water has a brief lifespan.
There is a misconception that such water must be used immediately. This isn’t true either, and most manufacturers of bacteriostatic water recommend a shelf life of 28 days. It can probably last longer that that, and an even longer lifespan may be achievable with salt, but 28 days is a safe bet in medical environments.
4. Bacteriostatic water cannot be reused.
The misconception that bacteriostatic water is understandable considering the purpose that the water serves, but it can be reused. In other words, a vial can be used across multiple injections. The needle could, of course, introduce contamination but the benzyl alcohol will be effective in killing it.
5. Bacteriostatic water is usable for all medicinal applications.
Since this water is used for injections, this has led many laymen to believe that it is used in all injections. This is not the case, and the U.S. National Library of Medicine actually indicates that it should never be use in neonates because it causes toxicity, and although rare, there are also adults who can experience adverse reactions.
When sterile or bacteriostatic water is sold for medicinal purposes, it may require a prescription. That is because the water must meet certain standards, and you can purchase it with a high degree of confidence. It is generally not recommended that use bacteriostatic water for injections, hydration or other purposes unless you have first consulted with your doctor.