Antiseptics are chemical products applied to the skin or mucous membranes with the aim of reducing, eliminating or inactivating microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi or viruses, at the time they are used, being indicated for cleaning the skin in preparation for surgery or washing hands to prevent the spread of disease. In this article we will provide you the information about antiseptic.
There are different types of antiseptics, which have bactericidal, fungicidal and/or viricidal properties, such as ethyl alcohol, chlorhexidine or povidone-iodine, and should only be used on the skin or mucous membranes as medically advised, as they may not be indicated during pregnancy or breastfeeding, due to example.
Furthermore, due to the risk of side effects, such as skin burns, contact dermatitis, skin irritation or allergies, antiseptics must be used with medical indication and in the concentration and doses recommended by the doctor.
Importance of Antiseptic
Antiseptics are indicated for:
- Hand washing to prevent the spread of disease;
- Disinfection of mucous membranes to perform medical procedures, such as inserting a catheter into the urethra or bladder;
- Hand disinfection, in preparation for surgery or invasive medical procedures;
- Treatment of infections of the skin, mouth and throat;
- Treatment of throat infections, in the form of lozenges or solutions;
- Cleaning the skin of the newborn and the umbilical cord, to avoid infections;
- Cleaning and disinfecting wounds, cuts and burns;
- Oral lavage in periodontal disease and mouth disinfection to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia.
Due to their wide application, antiseptics should be chosen according to the purpose of their use and medical recommendation.
What is the difference between antiseptic and disinfectant?
Both antiseptics and disinfectants are chemical products, and some have the same ingredients, such as ethyl alcohol, for example.
However, antiseptics are used on the skin or mucous membranes to prevent or treat infections, clean wounds or clean hands before surgery, for example.
Disinfectants, on the other hand, are used to disinfect surfaces, contaminated objects or surgical instruments, for example, and generally have a different chemical formula from antiseptics, such as glutaraldehyde, sodium hypochlorite, peracetic acid, formaldehyde or isopropyl alcohol, and are not indicated for application on the skin or mucous membranes.
Types of antiseptic
Some of the most used antiseptics and indicated by the doctor are:
1. Ethyl alcohol
Ethyl alcohol is the most effective substance in eliminating bacteria, viruses and fungi, exerting a rapid action.
Alcohol is more effective at a concentration of 70%, as it contains a little more water in its composition, which increases its antimicrobial action when compared to 96% alcohol.
Alcohol 70% can be found in liquid or gel form, for cleaning hands, umbilical cord and skin, for cleaning the skin before collecting arterial or venous blood, for example.
In addition, 70% alcohol can also be used to clean surfaces, and in these cases, opt for the liquid form.
Does homemade gel alcohol work?
There is a wide variety of recipes on the internet, which teach how to prepare homemade gel alcohol in an easy way, however, it is not recommended to do so, since it is not possible to guarantee that the correct concentration of alcohol in the gel for the elimination of all the microorganisms. In addition, some of the ingredients that are added in these recipes may favor their proliferation.
Chlorhexidine is a colorless substance and is available in different concentrations, each of which has different indications. Although it has a weak action against fungi and viruses, this solution is widely used in cleaning the umbilical cord, disinfecting wounds, cleaning burns and as a mouthwash.
In some solutions, it may be associated with alcohol, having greater effectiveness in disinfecting hands and preparing for surgical procedures.
3. Povidone Iodine
Povidone iodine, known by the trade name Povidine, is a brown colored solution indicated for the disinfection of intact skin, the internal and external urogenital tract, hand disinfection, bladder catheterization and disinfection of damaged skin, as is the case with wounds, leg ulcers, superficial wounds and burns.
This antiseptic is contraindicated for people who are allergic to iodine, and it is always important to inform the doctor, nurse or other health professional that you are allergic, so that its use is avoided and replaced by another antiseptic.
4. Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide, known as hydrogen peroxide, is an antiseptic indicated for cleaning wounds, cuts, scratches, ulcers or removing dead skin tissue. However, its spectrum of action is reduced.
The ideal concentration of hydrogen peroxide for application on the skin is 3%, which corresponds to the presentation of 10 volumes. Ideally, after using hydrogen peroxide, 0.9% saline solution should be applied to the skin, to keep the skin clean and hydrated.
In addition, hydrogen peroxide, although it is a widely used antiseptic, is also not effective enough in eliminating all microorganisms, and it is necessary to associate it with other antiseptics to be effective.
5. Potassium permanganate
Potassium permanganate is an antiseptic for the skin indicated in the form of baths or compresses, in cases of dermatitis, eczema, abscesses, prickly heat, skin lesions with secretion, or to relieve itching and facilitate the healing of wounds, such as chickenpox, for example, due to its antibacterial and antifungal action.
Potassium permanganate is found in the form of tablets to be diluted in water, and should not be ingested orally, nor used by pregnant or lactating women, being sold only with a medical prescription, as it can cause side effects, such as irritation or skin burns .
Triclosan is an antibacterial antiseptic present in soaps for cleaning the skin, especially in the case of acne or excess oiliness, or in mouthwashes, toothpastes, deodorants or lotions.
This antiseptic is found in different concentrations in the products, and must be used with the indication of the doctor or dentist.
When not to use
Unless medically recommended, antiseptics should not be used on surgical wounds or wound washing, on deep wounds or wounds containing foreign bodies, pressure sores, severe burns, animal or human bites, and in bathing bedridden patients.
Antiseptics should also not be used in cases of allergy to any component of the formula.
Which products should not be used
Some of the products popularly called antiseptics, which are still circulating on the market, but which should not be used are mercury-chromium, due to its toxicity and side effects, ether, due to its ineffectiveness as an antiseptic, and eosin, which dries the skin, being indicated for non-infected dermatological lesions.
In addition, gel alcohol prepared at home should not be used either, as there is a risk of not obtaining an adequate concentration for the elimination of microorganisms, in addition to some of the ingredients benefiting their proliferation.