WHAT ARE TOPICAL ANTISEPTICS AND HOW DO THEY WORK?
Antiseptics are chemical substances that slow down or stop the growth of microorganisms. They do not harm the skin and help in preventing infections.
Antiseptics are often used in hospitals before performing medical procedures and surgery and are available over-the-counter for home use (substitute for soap).
Some antiseptics are germicides (capable of destroying microbes-bacteriocidal), whereas others are bacteriostatic (prevent or inhibit the growth of bacteria).
Topical antiseptics work by slowing the growth of microorganisms on the skin and mucous membranes and are distinguishable from disinfectants (both are chemicals; disinfectants destroy the microorganisms found on nonliving objects).
Antiseptics should not be used to treat deep skin infections, large wounds, animal bites, severe burns, and eye infections.
Types of antiseptics
Antiseptics are categorized according to their chemical structures. Some commonly used antiseptics include:
- Alcohols: used as a skin disinfectant
- isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol
- Quaternary ammonium compound: used as a skin disinfectant and to preserve eye drops
- Benzalkonium chloride
- Methylbenzethonium chloride
- Chlorhexidine and other diguanides: used as a preoperative skin disinfectant and for bladder irrigation
- Chlorhexidine gluconate
- Chlorhexidine acetate
- Antibacterial dye: to treat burns and wounds
- Crystal violet
- Gentian violet
- Proflavine hemisulfate
- Peroxide and permanganate: used as wound cleanser and mouthwash
- Hydrogen peroxide solution
- Potassium permanganate solution
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Halogenated phenol derivative: used in soaps and solutions
- Quinolone derivative: used in throat lozenges and to treat wounds
- Hydroxyquinoline sulfate
HOW ARE TOPICAL ANTISEPTICS USED?
Antiseptics have various potential uses. Some of the most common uses of antiseptics include:
- Skin disinfection
- Preventing infection caused by cuts, minor wounds, and burns
- Mucous membrane disinfection
- Preoperative skin disinfection
- Hand washing
- Health care workers use them to disinfect hands before and after touching the patient for check-ups.
- Preventing and treating infected wounds and burns
- Sanitizers are used to prevent infections (such as SARS-COV-2)
- Treating mouth and throat infections
- Used as mouthwash and lozenges for sore throat
- Oral antiseptic before a dental procedure
WHAT ARE SIDE EFFECTS OF TOPICAL ANTISEPTICS?
Strong antiseptics need to be diluted before their application on the skin. When using at home, follow all the safety instructions mentioned on the bottle.
Common side effects include:
- Skin irritation
- Redness of skin
- Contact dermatitis (a condition that makes skin red or inflamed after contact with an allergen)
Other rare side effects include:
- Erosive contact dermatitis (a severe form of contact dermatitis)
- Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction)
The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.
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