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What Is Polysporin Ointment?

Polysporin ointment can be applied to a cut to help prevent infection.
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  • Written By: Nick Doniger
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 22 March 2014
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Polysporin ointment is a topical antibiotic cream used for treating minor wounds. It is recommended for everyday use until such wounds are cleared up. Though no serious side effects are associated with the use of polysporin ointment, it may cause some allergic reactions. Polysporin is not recommended for all types of wounds and doctors may not prescribe it for all people.

As a mild, topical antibiotic, polysporin ointment is meant for minor cuts, scrapes, and first-degree burns. This ointment helps prevent bacterial infections from spreading among such wounds. It additionally inhibits the growth of bacteria that may already be present. Polysporin powder may also be available for the same uses.

Polysporin ointment differs slightly from Neosporin® ointment. Both contain the same active ingredients bacitracin zinc and polymyxin B sulfate. Neosporin®, however, also contains another type of antibiotic called neomycin. Neomycin, when taken orally, is a compound that may lower the risk of infection in certain surgeries. As a topical ointment, neomycin has more potentially serious side effects than polysporin.

Prior to applying polysporin ointment, the small wound should be thoroughly washed with water and patted dry with a clean towel. The ointment may then be lightly and evenly rubbed onto the affected area. Hands are recommended to be washed immediately after performing this or any other first aid procedure.

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It is advised that polysporin ointment is applied to a wound one to three times daily. This may be done every day until the wound is healed. If seven days pass and significant healing has not taken place, a physician may be consulted, and he or she will likely have the patient cease the polysporin regimen. More specific instructions may be available on the ointment's package.

There are no reported common side effects to using polysporin ointment, as long as directions are properly followed, aside from possible allergies. Such allergies may include rash, itching, respiratory difficulty, and swelling of various sites of the face. If exposed to the eyes, polysporin may cause pain and irritation and should be immediately, thoroughly rinsed with water. In the event that polysporin is accidentally ingested, it is advised that a physician is consulted immediately.

Polysporin ointment is not recommended for all types of wounds. Serious wounds, such as second- or third-degree burns, animal bites, or deep skin punctures should be assessed by a doctor. Additionally, some conflicting data exists regarding whether or not polysporin is safe for pregnant women to use even when receiving a small cut. Most data suggests that any possible risk is not likely to outweigh the potential benefit, yet it has been noted that clinical testing is needed to support this.

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anon330417
Post 2

I had surgery on my hand, and for a week my hand has been sore, with fingers swollen and the scar, and my palm and fingers are bright red. I left the polysporin off for three days and it has now kind of settled down. Is there an alternative?

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