What is Antibiotic Ointment?

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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2019
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Antibiotic ointment is a type of topical ointment, typically in an oil base, applied to the skin to kill bacteria and prevent infection. It is intended for use on minor cuts, burns, or abrasions, and should not be applied to puncture wounds, animal bites, or severe burns. The use of this ointment can be an effective part of wound care, along with regularly cleansing the wound, and observing it to make sure it is healing properly.

Some people also choose to use antibiotic ointment on a new tattoo, though some tattoo artists advise against this for various reasons. In general, this ointment is intended to speed healing and prevent infection. If a cut or wound appears infected, it is important to go to a doctor to obtain oral antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading.

Active ingredients in antibiotics typically include bacitracin, neomycin sulfate, and polymyxin, among others. Antibiotic ointment should be applied when the wound is clean and dry; be sure to thoroughly remove any dirt from a wound with gentle soap, lukewarm water, and a washcloth before applying ointment. It should then be covered with a bandage. This is because the oil base of the ointment is intended to prevent it from absorbing into the skin, which means it could easily be wiped off if it is not covered. In addition, the oil base could potentially stain clothing or other fabrics.


Most antibiotic ointments come in cream forms as well, and these may be better able to absorb into the skin. In addition, sometimes these cream forms can contain extra ingredients to help with pain relief, which may be especially beneficial for burns. These ointments and creams can be found in most drugstores, grocery stores, and discount stores. They are typically quite inexpensive, and it is a good idea to keep a supply on hand to have it ready when injuries occur.

This type of topical ointment should generally not be used for more than one week; if the wound is not healing after that amount of time, it is necessary to visit a doctor. Unless specifically prescribed by a veterinarian, antibiotic ointment for human use should not be applied to animals. In addition, some people use ointment to spot-treat blemishes. Although this can be effective, it is best not to use it over the entire face, because the oil base can quickly clog pores and end up worsening the problem or causing new ones.


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Post 2

@seekinfo2 - I've found that triple antibiotic ointment is very effective also. It might not have the blend of 4 antibiotics that Neosporin does, but it works just as well. It contains bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B. My cuts heal just as quickly and the anti-scarring properties are the same.

Post 1

I know that I couldn't function without carrying antibiotic ointment around with me -- my two boys get so many scrapes and bumps that I go through that stuff like crazy.

I really like Neosporin the best because it is a mixture of 4 different kinds of antibiotics. It is very effective on cuts and wounds by preventing infection, but of course I'll take whatever I can get in a pinch. I just really like that one because of how it can minimize scars -- I haven't really found another antibiotic cream that works like that, has anybody else?

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