Antiseptics are mainly used to reduce levels of microorganisms on the skin and mucous membranes. For practical purposes, antiseptics are routinely thought of as topical agents. The skin and mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and vagina are home to a large number of what are usually harmless micro-organisms. However, when the skin or mucous membranes are damaged or breached in surgery, antiseptics can be used to disinfect the area and reduce the chances of infection. It is also important that people whom are treating patients with wounds or burns adequately wash their hands with antiseptic solutions to minimise the risk of cross infection.
Antiseptics are a diverse class of drugs which are applied to skin surfaces or mucous membranes for their anti-infective effects. This may be either bacteriocidal or bacteriostatic.
Commonly used antiseptics for skin cleaning include benzalkonium chloride, chlorhexidine, hexachlorophine, iodine compounds, mercury compounds, alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.
Chlorhexidine shows a high margin of safety when applied to mucous membranes, and has been used in oral rinses and preoperative total body washes.
USES OF ANTISEPTICS
Antiseptics are used for:
• Hand washing – chlorhexidine gluconate solutions are often used in hand scrubs and hand rubs.
• Pre-operative skin disinfection – antiseptics applied to the operation site to reduce the resident skin flora.
• Mucous membrane disinfection – antiseptic irrigations may be instilled into the bladder, urethra or vagina to treat infections or cleanse the cavity prior to catheterization.
• Preventing and treating infected wounds and burns – antiseptic preparations are available over-the-counter from your pharmacy to treat minor cuts, abrasions and burns.
As of the date of preparation of this document, the foregoing information is believed to be accurate and is provided in good faith. However, no warranty or representation with respect to such information is intended or given.
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