What is Boric Acid Ointment?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Boric acid ointment may help reduce the risk of infection at the site of an injury.
Boric acid ointment may help reduce the risk of infection at the site of an injury.

Boric acid ointment is a product designed to treat mild skin irritation. A number of nations have restricted the sale of boric acid for medical purposes and it should be used with caution. Although this product has historically been used to treat diaper rash, this usage is no longer recommended, and boric acid is actually considered quite dangerous for infants. Some drugstores carry this product or can compound it by request. Numerous alternatives are available to treat minor cuts, scrapes, and burns.

Breastfeeding mothers should not use boric acid ointment.
Breastfeeding mothers should not use boric acid ointment.

Boric acid has antiseptic qualities. A typical boric acid ointment includes a low concentration, usually around four percent, suspended in a cream designed to be applied to the skin. The area being treated should be washed and patted dry before a thin layer of ointment is applied with an applicator and then allowed to dry. The skin should not be covered once the ointment is applied unless a physician has specifically recommended bandaging.

Boric acid ointment is no longer recommended for treating diaper rash.
Boric acid ointment is no longer recommended for treating diaper rash.

This product has historically been used in the treatment of minor skin irritation and inflammation, including acne, scratches, and small burns. Concerns about boric acid ointment mostly surround its toxicity. Boric acid is poisonous and can be absorbed through the skin, especially when it is applied to an open wound. While a small dose is not usually dangerous, it can build up in the body and make people very sick. Some people are also allergic to boric acid and will experience skin reactions like swelling and redness when ointments containing boric acid are applied.

Boric acid ointment is used to treat mild skin irritation.
Boric acid ointment is used to treat mild skin irritation.

Using this ointment can repel bacterial growth and reduce the risk of infection at the site of a minor injury. Simply keeping small wounds clean can often prevent complications like infection, with no need to apply a topical antiseptic. For slightly larger wounds, an array of antiseptic products are available and many of these products are safer than boric acid ointment.

Boric acid ointment may cause birth defects if used during pregnancy.
Boric acid ointment may cause birth defects if used during pregnancy.

While boric acid was widely used until the 1980s, a number of studies indicated it could be dangerous for young children and could potentially result in birth defects if used by pregnant women. Some nations have toughened labeling laws for boric acid ointment and other products, requiring companies to disclose potential risks. Generally, this product should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, or on young children, particularly infants. If someone uses it and experiences an adverse reaction, the ointment should be washed off and not used again.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

anon993915

Boric ointment is very effective and safe. It has a bad rep because the ingredient are used to kill insects like cockroach, ants, etc. Anything good in large amounts are bad for you. Dah! Medicine/pharmaceutical giants/competition rule the media.

anon226592

I have used this ointment for the last forty years. It was first introduced to me when my daughter was two and had a small area on her cheek which would not heal after my doctor had given me several different creams and was about to refer her to a specialist. An older doctor at the baby clinic told me to go to the chemist and ask for zinc and boric ointment, which I did. The sore healed within two days.

I have used it to reduce redness and healing ever since. I can no longer buy boric acid powder in the UK so can no longer use the cream.

How sad so many of the old medicines can no longer be used.

anon180486

if you have a crack in the skin on your heel, apply boric acid ointment and it will heal in two days.

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    • Boric acid ointment may help reduce the risk of infection at the site of an injury.
      By: wellphoto
      Boric acid ointment may help reduce the risk of infection at the site of an injury.
    • Breastfeeding mothers should not use boric acid ointment.
      By: Hunor Kristo
      Breastfeeding mothers should not use boric acid ointment.
    • Boric acid ointment is no longer recommended for treating diaper rash.
      By: aseph
      Boric acid ointment is no longer recommended for treating diaper rash.
    • Boric acid ointment is used to treat mild skin irritation.
      By: FirstBlood
      Boric acid ointment is used to treat mild skin irritation.
    • Boric acid ointment may cause birth defects if used during pregnancy.
      By: Radek Sturgolewski
      Boric acid ointment may cause birth defects if used during pregnancy.