What Are Saline Drops?

Written by peter grant
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Saline solution is a combination of salt dissolved in water. It's used in a variety of medical applications, from a simple IV fluid to a commonly-used decongestant for infants, children and adults alike. The combination of water and salt helps dissolve mucus in the sinus cavities, thus making it easier to blow out or remove via a bulb mucus syringe if the patient is an infant. Using saline drops is a very straightforward procedure that carries a very low risk-level.

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Saline Solution

Saline solution is the generic term used to describe a sterile combination of sodium chloride, or NaCl, and water, or H2O. When placed in a sterile solution, the mixture is known as "saline," however outside of a sterile context, it is simply salt water. Typically, saline solution is used for intravenous use in hospitals to keep a patient's body hydrated, beyond its use as drops which are used to clean contact lenses and irrigate the nasal cavities.

Cleaning With Saline Drops

Saline drops can be applied to a dry terry cotton cloth or a microfiber cloth and used to clean the surface of sunglasses, reading glasses, prescription glasses, and other optical lenses. It is especially useful in cleaning contact lenses, which need to be sterile because they are applied directly to the user's eyes. Maintaining sterility is key to avoiding infection and bacteria growth between the contact lens and the eye surface itself. It is also used in lab environments to flush out eyes if they are exposed to a hazardous chemical or nefarious gas.

Nasal Irrigation

While more commonly used to irrigate the nasal passages of children, saline drops can also be used by adults. By dipping one's head back and dropping a light amount of saline drops into each nostril causes the solution to break down mucus and work its way into the nasal sinus cavities. Adults can then blow their nose into a tissue and find that the mucus comes out of their nose faster. In the case of use in infants, an irrigation bulb is used to create a light vacuum effect which draws air and mucus out of the nasal cavities and into the bulb, clearing the infant's nostrils and sinuses.

Animal Eye Care

Saline drops are also used by pet owners and veterinarians to treat ocular traumas among cats and dogs. Similar to how it cleans contact lenses for humans, saline drops are used to irrigate the eyes of pets who may have been exposed to a dangerous or poisonous chemical. Saline drops are applied directly to the eyes in liberal quantities, then thoroughly washed out with water. Depending on the ocular condition of your pet, you may need to apply saline drops more than once -- it is best to follow your veterinarian's advice if you are unsure.

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