Summary

Our body contains fluids (water) and salts called electrolytes. Electrolytes are positive and negatively charged particles that generate electrical impulses that, among other things, cause our muscles to contract.

Fluids and electrolytes are stored in two compartments: intracellular (inside the cell) and extracellular (outside the cell). The amount of electrolytes in fluid is called a concentration. There are three types of fluid concentrations: iso-osmolar (same concentration), hypo-osmolar (low concentration), and hyperosmolar (high concentration). These concentrations are used to describe IV solutions as isotonic (iso-osmolar), hypotonic (hypo-osmolar), and hypertonic (hyper-osmolar).

There are five key electrolytes: potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Collectively, they must remain in balance for our body to function properly. Diseases and treatment of diseases are two factors that can cause fluids and electrolytes to become imbalanced. The healthcare professional must quickly identify the signs and symptoms of the imbalance and then take steps to restore the balance between electrolytes and fluids.

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