How Do I Choose the Best Wound Antiseptic?

Megan Shoop

Choosing a wound antiseptic is generally a matter of examining the wound and picking a treatment with the proper strength and consistency. There are dozens of different kinds of wound antiseptic available today, from spray-on treatments to natural antiseptics, like honey. The age and skin sensitivity of the patient may also play an important factor in choosing a wound antiseptic. A very harsh ointment on sensitive skin, for example, might do more harm than good. Serious injuries should not be treated at home, they should be covered with a clean cloth and addressed as soon as possible by a doctor or medical technician.

Petroleum jelly can be used to protect a wound.
Petroleum jelly can be used to protect a wound.

Determining the type of injury is one of the most important parts of choosing a wound antiseptic. For instance, spray treatments may be applied to shallow abrasions and scrapes. Cuts and lacerations should typically be treated with thick, gel-like antiseptics instead. Antiseptics should never be allowed to drip directly into deep wounds and cuts as they can kill the reparative cells inside the wound and delay healing time. The body may also have a poor reaction to the antiseptic, causing infection inside the wound.

A bottle of rubbing alcohol.
A bottle of rubbing alcohol.

Some of the best wound antiseptics to use on deeper wounds are thick emollients. These can be spread around the edges of the wound without much danger that they’ll run or drip into the open area. Applying thicker treatments this way also kills infectious germs on the skin around the injury. The area should then be covered to promote moisture and help the skin repair itself more quickly.

Iodine may be used as an antiseptic for those with less sensitive skin.
Iodine may be used as an antiseptic for those with less sensitive skin.

Burns require a soothing, relatively gentle antiseptic. Boric acid is generally gentle enough to apply to the mucus membranes on the body and usually reduces inflammation and cools the skin. Honey is also a very gentle wound antiseptic. Research shows that it helps kill harmful bacteria on and around the wound while hydrating the injured area. Those with sensitive skin, such as children or the elderly, may benefit from using either boric acid or honey as a wound antiseptic.

Antiseptic spray can be applied to shallow scrapes.
Antiseptic spray can be applied to shallow scrapes.

Age and sensitivity also play a large role in choosing a antiseptic. Rubbing alcohol and iodine, for instance, should typically be avoided if the patient is very young, very old, or is prone to eczema and irritated skin. A diluted solution of distilled water and 3% hydrogen peroxide typically works well in these cases. Those with extremely sensitive skin may not be able to use an antiseptic at all. For such patients, it may be best to gently wash the area with mild soap and coat it with petroleum jelly and a bandage.

Antiseptic sprays and ointments are easy to apply on knee wounds.
Antiseptic sprays and ointments are easy to apply on knee wounds.

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