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Major Benefits of Saline Solution.

What are the uses and benefits of saline solution?

Short Answer: Saline is an integral component of many treatments prescribed by doctors and first responders, being included in the World Health Organization's (WHO) List of Essential Medicines.

It has a wide variety of uses and offers many benefits. To truly comprehend the role saline plays in the healthcare field, let us take a look at,

  • The types of saline solutions,
  • Components of saline solutions,
  • The uses of saline, and
  • The benefits of different varieties of saline solutions

Types of Saline solution

What is Saline?

  • It is a mixture of sodium chloride (NaCl/ salt) and water.
  • Saline solutions belong to the crystalloid family of medication - medicines containing small particles that pass from the bloodstream to the cells and tissues with minimum resistance.
  • Use of Saline goes as far back as 1831. It was used to clean wounds since the Blue Cholera Pandemic
  • In 2020, Sodium was the 274th most commonly prescribed medication in the United States.
  • 0.9% solution (normal saline) is most common commercially available saline solution.
  • Saline is acidic, with a pH value of 5.5 (this is mainly due to the dissolved carbon dioxide)

Here are some of the saline solutions available for commercial and medical use.

  • 0.9% Normal Saline
  • Hypertonic Saline
  • 0.45% Normal Saline (Half Normal Saline)
  • Ringer’s lactate solution
  • Acetated Ringer’s solution
  • Intravenous sugar solution/ Dextrose Solution

These are some of the saline solutions used in cell biology;

  • Phosphate buffered saline (PBS)
  • TRIS-buffered saline (TBS)
  • Hank’s balanced salt solution (HBSS)
  • Earle’s balanced salt solution (EBSS)
  • Standard Saline Citrate

Normal Saline Solution (0.9% NaCl)

  • Most common and widely available saline solution
  • Created by mixing 9 g of NaCl in One liter of water
  • pH – 5.5 (Acidic)
  • It is a sterile, non-pyrogenic crystalloid solution
  • Normal saline solution can be administered only via intravenous (IV) access

Hypertonic Saline Solution

  • Can be found in 3%, 7%, and 11% concentrations
  • Primarily used to assist treatments of the respiratory tract and other critical care settings.
  • 7% NaCl solutions are considered as mucoactive agents (class of chemical agents that assist in the clearance of mucus or sputum in the upper and lower parts of the respiratory tract) used to hydrate thick secretions which makes them easier to cough up and remove.
  • 3% solution – used in critical care settings – dealing with increased intracranial pressure, or severe hyponatremia (low concentration of Sodium in blood)
  • 11% Solution of xylitol with 0.65% saline has an effect on nasal pathogenic bacteria and stimulates the washing of the naso-pharynx. Thus, they have been very popular in complementary and alternative medicine.
  • Inhaling hypertonic saline has been shown to help with respiratory problems such as bronchiolitis

0.45% Normal Saline (Half Normal Saline)

  • Primarily used to treat hypernatremia and diabetic ketoacidosis
  • It is contraindicated in patients with burns, trauma, or liver disease due to depletion of IV fluid volumes.

    -  Contraindicated: A symptom or medical condition that is the reason for a person not to receive a particular treatment as it might harm the patient.
  • Infusing the solution too quickly can result in the hemolysis (destruction) of red blood cells.

Ringer’s Lactate Solution

  • Also known as Sodium Lactate Solution or Hartmann’s Solution
  • Mixture of NaCl, Sodium Lactate, Potassium Chloride, and Calcium Chloride in water.
  • Used to treat those with low blood volume or low blood pressure
  • Can also be used to treat metabolic acidosis and chemical burns
  • Side-effects: Allergic reactions, high blood potassium, hypervolemia, and high blood calcium.

Intravenous sugar solution/ Dextrose Solution

  • Mixture of dextrose and water used to treat low blood sugar/ water loss without electrolyte loss.
  • Available in the strengths of 5%, 10%, and 50% dextrose.
  • Used for the treatment of high blood potassium, diabetic ketoacidosis, and comprises a part of parenteral nutrition.
  • Side-effects: Irritation of the vein, high blood sugar and swelling.
  • Excess use can result in low blood sodium and other electrolyte problems.

Phosphate-buffered Saline (PBS)

  • A Buffer solution used in biological research
  • pH: 7.4
  • Water-based salt solution that contains disodium hydrogen phosphate and sodium chloride.
  • Some solutions contain potassium chloride and potassium di-hydrogen phosphate

Components of saline Solution

The basic saline solution is a mixture of salt and water with varying concentrations.

The Alternate ingredients found in the various saline solutions depends on several factors such as;

- The expected use of the solution
- The medical condition treated with the solution

Possible ingredients that can be found include:

  • Salt
  • Water
  • Dextrose
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Calcium Chloride
  • Ringer’s Solution
  • Lactated Ringer’s Solution

(Note: The ingredients present in the saline solution will depend on the purpose of the saline solution. Not all saline solutions will have same set of ingredients)

Uses of Saline solution

The normal saline solution and its variants have many uses. Here are some of the most well-known uses:

  • To flush wounds and skin abrasions. (However, medical research has shown that saline is no more effective than regular tap water)
  • Used as a flush to clean catheter blocks by removing any medicine left in the catheter
  • Sustaining patients through surgery, dialysis, and chemotherapy
  • Treatment of Metabolic Alkalosis commonly caused by prolonged vomiting, hypovolemia, hypokalemia, and diuretic use
  • Treatment of Mild Sodium Depletion
  • Used in I.V. Therapy (Medical technique that administers medications, nutrients, and fluids directly into the person’s vein)

    - Management and Treatment of Dehydration
    - Providing nutrients for those who cannot consume food or water orally.
  • Component of nasal washes used to relieve symptoms of rhinitis and the common cold
  • Sterile isotonic saline is used to fill in breast implants used in breast augmentation surgery.
  • Component of Eye drops and Contact lens solutions.

Benefits of different types of Saline solutions

The different types of saline solutions increase the versatility of saline and allows the substance to be used for various medical and non-medical purposes (biochemistry, research etc.)

The availability of medical grade saline solutions in different concentrations allows for the solution to be a part of a wide range of western medicine First Aid and more complex treatment procedures as well as alternative and complementary medicine.

(The saline solution used to treat patients with electrolyte imbalances would not be used for cleaning wounds) Having saline in various strengths and concentrations allows for the substance to be used more frequently in biological research.

Related Questions

How is Saline Classified?

As mentioned above, Saline is considered a crystalloid solution. Crystalloid solutions are classified into three types based on their tonicity and the ability to make water move in and out of the cell via osmosis.

Tonicity relates to the concentration of all the solute particles in the solution (Solute – a dissolved substance)

- A solution with few particles – low osmolarity,

- A solution with high number of particles – high osmolarity

The Three Types of Crystalloids are;

  • Hypotonic: The solution has a fewer solutes than the fluids in the cells. In such cases, water will move from the extracellular space into the cells.
  • Hypertonic: The solution has more solutes than the fluids in the cells. The water will flow out of the cells.
  • Isotonic: The fluids inside and outside the cells have the same osmolarity. In such instances, there is no movement of fluids between the extracellular and intracellular spaces.

Can you make saline at home?

Yes. It is possible to make a basic saline solution at home.

All you need is;

  • 250 ml of boiled or sterilized water
  • ¼ teaspoon of sea salt/rock salt


  • Boil the water and pour it into a clean cup
  • Add Salt and Stir with a clean spoon until the salt crystals have fully dissolved.
  • Cover the solution to protect from dust and other contaminating elements
  • Let the solution cool down to a lukewarm or room temperature.

A Few things to keep in mind when making homemade saline:

  • Avoid using regular table salt/ salt with added iodine – These salts usually contain anti-caking agents which will make your salt come out in tiny chunks rather than a fine powder, making it difficult to fully dissolve.
  • Make sure to properly measure the salt: water ratio
  • Always make a fresh batch every time you need to clean using the solution as homemade solutions will never reach the sterilization level of store bought solutions and expire at a much faster rate.

What is better, store bought or homemade?

  • Homemade solutions have a higher risk of contamination.
  • You may get the salt: water wrong. This can result in complications.
  • Store bought saline has a longer shelf life.


Saline is a versatile and useful substance and rightfully deserves its spot in the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicine.

It is possible for you to make your own saline at home. Remember, knowledge is power. Make sure to take all the facts into account and determine if it’s worth it.

However, the use of these saline solutions can bring about some unintended side-effects. Therefore, make sure to handle the substance with care and let expert medical practitioners handle the substance during treatment.


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