Potassium chloride is a compound formed from the elements potassium and chlorine. It is used as both a drug and an industrial agent in a number of capacities. Though it can be beneficial to patients and industry alike, there are a number of precautions that must be taken when ingesting or handling potassium chloride.
Potassium chloride in the medical field is used to treat hypokalemia, a condition in which the potassium levels in the blood have dropped due to illness or reaction with certain medications, or from excess vomiting and/or diarrhea. Potassium chloride is administered in pill form to correct this imbalance. The pill is taken whole, as crushing it can result in too much potassium being absorbed too quickly. It is generally taken with a meal.
Potassium chloride is used as a substitute for people looking to cut back on their salt intake, either on its own, or in a mixture with sodium chloride. However, it should be consumed in moderation as excess potassium levels can cause a number of problems, particularly for people with kidney, liver or heart disease. Too much potassium can also result in hyperkalemia, and may interfere with some medications.
Low potassium can negatively impact a plant's growth, and potassium chloride is often administered for the same reason it is given to humans with hypokalemia. In addition, potassium chloride is used in welding and metal casting as a flux agent, and as a de-icing agent for home use. It is the last of three drugs administered to criminals during the lethal injection process, and is responsible for stopping the heart.