Antiseptics are chemical substances that inhibit the growth and development of germs or microorganisms from the external surfaces of the body. Generally, they are used to prevent infectious conditions. Antiseptics are neither antibiotics that kill bacteria in the body, nor disinfectants that destroy germs on the on-living objects. However, an antiseptic can be referred as a skin disinfectant.
Antiseptics are often thought as topical applications, which are applied on the skin and mucus membranes. Most of the chemical ingredients used are antiseptics and disinfectants. They usually depend on the concentration and potency. For instance, 6% hydrogen peroxide is used for cleaning wounds, while 30% is used for bleaching and oxidising. Commonly used chemical agents are alcohols, chlorhexidine, ammonium compounds, antibacterial dyes, inorganic iodine compounds, diguanides, peroxides, certain metals, phenols, quinolone derivatives, etc.
- Hand scrubbing and washing
- Pre-operative skin disinfestation
- Antiseptic irrigation of catheter before inserting in urethra, bladder or vagina
- Preventing skin infection
- Removal of dead skin cells and tissue debris
- Preventing and treating mouth or throat infections
Stronger antiseptics should be diluted in sterile water before use; otherwise, they may irritate your skin, causing burns or eczema. If you experience skin rashes after application, immediately consult your doctor; you are probably allergic to certain antiseptics. Do not apply antiseptics on large open wounds, deep cuts or abrasions, severe burns and scrapes. They should be treated properly under the supervision of your doctor. Never use an antiseptic solution to treat sunburn or skin infections. Remember one thing that antiseptics only reduce the germs on the skin surface. They do not destroy the bacteria as antibiotics do.
It is better to talk to a general practitioner or pharmacist about the usage of antiseptics. Do not use it haphazardly or more than prescribed duration. More importantly, do not use an out-dated antiseptic solution, cream or ointment.
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