Antiseptic ointment is a medicine that helps prevent infections or possibly fight them, and is prepared in an oil base. The term ointment is often used more loosely, and it’s possible to find creams or liquid solutions labeled as ointments. Antiseptic means infection-preventing, and it’s an general term with subtypes. Antibacterial ointments may not only prevent but also help cure ongoing skin infections. Generally, if antiseptic is used, it means the germ-killing agent can destroy surface bacteria, such as on the skin, but won’t cure infections.
There are many different types of antiseptic ointment that are widely available in over the counter preparations. A number of them include traditional germ killers like alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or witch hazel. Most average generic drug store ointments have these as primary ingredients. Other products like iodine or povidone-iodine (betadine) are available too. People can also get some more naturally based antiseptic ointment preparations, including those that contain ingredients like manuka honey, tea tree oil or other ingredients.
Those seeking antibacterial ointments specifically often find products like triple antibiotic ointment. These can contain bacteria fighting ingredients, which might treat minor infections. The most common antibacterial ingredients are neomycin, bacitracin and polymyxin. Sometimes ointments are sold that have only one of these antibiotics, and stronger antibiotic preparations may be available by prescription.
It’s important to know when it's appropriate to use an antiseptic ointment. Most often, people will apply these after receiving small cuts, minor burns, insect bites, or scrapes. The ointment can continue to be reapplied for several days, and some of them have additional properties that make them useful, like acting as minor pain or itch relief. Sometimes, antibacterial ointments are used for longer periods of time under the guidance of a physician.
An antiseptic ointment isn’t appropriate in all circumstances until a doctor’s guidance is sought. Animal bites, large cuts, cuts that won’t stop bleeding, insect bites that cause allergic reactions, or burns that blister may need medical care first. It’s also inappropriate to use an antiseptic oinment if an infection is already occurring. Skin infections can easily become blood infections, and even antibacterial ointments may not adequately address this. Signs of heating of the wound, pus, a wound that keeps reopening, red streaks from the wound, swollen lymph nodes, fever, or flulike symptoms need medical attention.
In the best of circumstances, home use of the antiseptic ointment occurs to immediately address the small injuries to which all people are subject. Hospital use may be more extensive; products like betadine are routinely used prior to surgery to kill surface bacteria and prevent wound infection. Most health professionals suggest people have one or more of these ointments on hand, but that they use them appropriately and seek prompt medical help when injuries are not minor.