Why do hospitals smell?

Ever notice that curious smell in hospitals? Most of us have. While it doesn’t take long to realize that it is there for a reason, most of us don’t know what it is. Hospitals need medical protection and security, and that smell is an integral part of it.  

The purpose of all hospitals is to treat people. Because a hospital houses such a large number of ailing patients, they are full of germs and pathogens. A hospital’s major objective is to limit the number of airborne germs and for that it uses a disinfectant. In most cases, this is Iodoform, and this is the substance which provides the queer smell in hospitals.

Iodoform is a compound derived from carbon, hydrogen and iodine. It is a stable disinfectant, and is used for cleaning the wards, corridors etc. In some cases, it is also sprayed in the air. It can also be used as an anti-septic: killing bacteria, disinfecting wounds etc.

As hospitals evolve, they have developed better means to disinfect their premises. In fact, new hospitals tend to not to smell at all, as odor less alternatives have now been manufactured. One example is cetrimide, which is now in widespread use in modern hospitals. Cetrimide holds an edge over Iodoform since it is odor less and has a stable application at higher temperatures.  

So eventually, hospitals will not smell at all. However, for now, that smell lingers in the wards and now we know why! Although some of us are bothered by it, research has shown that patients tend to feel more secure when they smell Iodoform in the air. So perhaps, it is not such a bad thing after all.

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