Why Do Paramedics Use Normal Saline?

Paramedics administer a range of drugs and fluids to patients during emergencies. Among these include normal saline or lactated ringer solution, which is given as fluid replacement in various medical and trauma conditions, such as low blood pressure (hypotension) and dehydration.

Knowing about the medications paramedics administer is essential for those aspiring to become emergency medical services (EMS) professionals. You can learn about these in our Video Vault, which includes a paramedic pharmacology study guide and answers frequently asked questions like, “What drugs do paramedics use for trauma?” and, “How do paramedics respond to a heart attack?”

What Is Sodium Chloride?

Sodium chloride (NaCl) is an inorganic compound formed when sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl) are combined. It forms white, crystalline cubes, which we generally recognize as salt.

While we often know it to be used for cooking, sodium chloride is also commonly incorporated in food and cleansing solutions. It’s also frequently used in the medical industry.

How the Body Uses Sodium Chloride

Our bodies use sodium chloride to absorb and transport nutrients, maintain blood pressure, balance fluids, transmit nerve signals, and contract and relax muscles. Here’s a quick breakdown of the role of NaCl in the body:

Nutrient Absorption

Sodium chloride helps your small intestine absorb chloride, sugar, water, and amino acids. Chloride also helps your body digest nutrients as it’s a component of gastric juice.

Blood Pressure Maintenance and Fluid Balance

Chemical signals in the body direct the kidney to either hold on to water to release into the bloodstream or excrete it in urine. By introducing sodium chloride into the body, the kidney releases water into your blood circulation, increasing blood volume and pressure. The opposite (decreasing sodium intake) leads to less water absorbed into the bloodstream, causing lower blood pressure.

Nerve Signal Transmission and Muscle Movement

When working with potassium, sodium contributes to how nerves transmit signals to the brain. It can help contract or relax muscles and assist in dictating how the heart functions.

What Is Normal Saline Used for in EMS?

Paramedics use normal saline – a sodium chloride solution – for various reasons. Typically, it’s mixed with water to create a saline solution for the following medical uses:

  • IV drips: To treat dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
  • Fluid and electrolyte replenishment: To help replenish lost water and salt in the body
  • Saline flush injections: To flush an IV or catheter after medication is given
  • Nasal irrigation or nasal drops: To clear congestion in the nose, reduce post-nasal drip, or keep the nasal cavity moist
  • Cleaning wounds: To wash and rinse a wound and its surrounding area
  • Eye drops: To treat redness, tearing, and dryness of the eyes
  • Sodium chloride inhalation: To induce mucus for excretion

How Normal Saline Is Administered

Sodium chloride can be given as a tablet or as normal saline solution and administered intravenously (through the veins, such as via IV) or intraosseously (through the bone marrow). 

Learn More About Paramedic Pharmacology

Paramedics are trained to administer medicines and fluids to patients. As an aspiring paramedic, you must have a solid knowledge of paramedic pharmacology to ensure that you treat your future patients properly and accurately. 

Our Video Vault is designed to help people like you learn everything needed to become a paramedic. This program includes resources for every aspect of the job, including paramedic pharmacology. Get lifetime access to the Video Vault for only $147 today!

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