There are many uses of potassium chloride, including its use to treat hypokalemia. Read on, to know its various uses and applications in different fields of science…
There are some chemical compounds whose uses span nearly every spectrum of science, ranging from plants to humans and physics. One such compound that has myriad uses is potassium chloride. It is a chemical compound which is made of potassium and chlorine. It actually resembles regular salt, which is basically sodium chloride. It is odorless, colorless and has minute face centered cubic crystals.
One of the most common uses of the compound is in the manufacture of fertilizers. Potassium chloride is sometimes known as muriate of potash when it is used as a fertilizer. This is one of the main applications of the compound because plants need potassium for their growth. However, their intake of this element from the soil is usually very limited. Thus, they need supplementation in the form of fertilizers which contain the element.
One of the main medical uses of this compound is in the treatment of hypokalemia, that is, deficiency of potassium in the body. However, this method of treatment is only recommended for patients who cannot take in the element by any other means. This is used in patients that have hypokalemia without alkalosis, and also for its prevention. This medication is usually available in powder form, as the tablet form can be irritating to chew on.
There are a few extended release tablets available as well. However, it is always better to opt for high potassium foods instead. This is because supplements are to be used sparingly, as there are a lot of side effects of the compound, like arrhythmias, and muscle weakness. So, this is to be strictly used under medical supervision. This medication is not to be used in people that are suffering from kidney failure.
One of the controversial uses of this compound is in making lethal injection preparations. The compound constitutes one-third of the content of lethal injections, the other constituents being a barbiturate and a paralytic. It directly acts on the heart and leads to sudden cardiac arrest.
There are quite a few more uses. These include:
- In some very rare cases, potassium chloride is used to induce abortion.
- It is used as one of the substitutes for table salt so as to make it sodium free.
- It is used as a water softener, instead of sodium chloride.
- It was also used as one of the ingredients in fire extinguishers because it was seen to be more effective than sodium bicarbonate. Now however, potassium bicarbonate is widely used for the same.
- It is used as a flux for gas wielding of aluminum, along with other agents like sodium and lithium chloride.
- Due to the tendency of the compound to be a part of exothermic reactions, it is used in heat packs.
- Sometimes, it also figures in bottled water.
- Potassium chloride is also used in the calibration of radiation monitoring equipment.
- It is mixed with water as an aid in petroleum and natural gas preparation.
Potassium chloride is an extremely useful compound whose uses span medicine, chemistry and physics. However, despite the many benefits of the compound, when it is being used for the treatment of hypokalemia, it is strictly to be used under medical supervision, because on overdose of this compound could lead to irreversible damage, including cardiac arrest.