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What Is an Iodine Antiseptic?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Iodine antiseptic usually refers to one of two mixtures containing both iodine and another ingredient, usually povodine or sodium iodide. Both forms are typically used to clean wounds, to treat infections, or prepare the skin for surgical procedures. They are often found to have a very dark purple or brown tint.

In it's purest form, iodine is a chemical element. It is a nonmetal and is usually found in crystalline or vapor form. Oftentimes it has a violet color. Iodine may be harmful when consumed in high quantities, although it is needed for human health when found in plants like algae or in fish, as it helps promote thyroid function.

The use of iodine antiseptic is common in both health care and residential settings. Povodine iodine is the most commonly used for over the counter use. It can be purchased in bottles, or pre-soaked pads and cotton swabs can be purchased. Most commonly, when iodine antiseptic is used in home settings, it is used to clean a wound in preparation for bandaging. This kills germs and bacteria and helps prevent infection.

In medical settings, iodine antiseptic has a wide range of uses. It is commonly used to sterilize and prepare skin prior to surgical procedures in order to prevent infection. Additional cleanings with an iodine solution may also be performed after surgery is complete. Occasionally, iodine will also be used in preparation for less invasive medical procedures, such as before vaccinations or blood donation.

Iodine antiseptic may also be used occasionally to treat a pre-existing infection, such as an eye infection, or bacterial conjunctivitis. The iodine is generally heavily diluted in order to prevent injury and discomfort, although in some cases higher doses may be needed. Iodine drops may also be used when preparing for surgery on the eye.

The iodine found in antiseptic solutions is not the same as dietary iodine, and therefore, should not be consumed. Many solutions also contain harmful ingredients, such as ethanol alcohol. If an iodine supplement is require, it should be taken under the direct supervision of a medical professional.

Burning and a slight tinging sensations are common when using an iodine antiseptic. If redness, prolonged pain, or irritation not related to the initial injury occur, use should be discontinued and the area washed with cool water. Allergic reactions are rare, but do occur.

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