What Is the Difference between Antiseptics and Antibiotics?

A. Gamm

Antiseptics and antibiotics are often believed to be the same due to their common properties, but there are a few key differences that distinguish the two. Typically, antiseptics weaken and slow the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms, which in turn helps to prevent the bacteria from causing further infection. Antibiotics, however, actually kill bacteria as well as some types of fungi and parasites. Unlike most antiseptics, bacteria may become resistant to antibiotics after prolonged use. Some antiseptics may hinder the healing process and worsen a wound's condition.

Antiseptics may be used before applying a bandage.
Antiseptics may be used before applying a bandage.

One of the primary differences between antiseptics and antibiotics is how they work against bacteria and other microorganisms. Antiseptics only slow the growth of bacteria instead of actually killing it off. Unlike antibiotics, however, antiseptics are also effective on other microorganisms, making it potentially beneficial in fighting other infections. Antibiotics do kill the bacteria, but are believed to be ineffective toward many other types of infection. It is believed that antibiotics may fight off certain parasites and fungi in the body, but they normally require a prescription since they are considered to be stronger.

Antiseptics are usually used to prevent more bacteria from entering open wounds.
Antiseptics are usually used to prevent more bacteria from entering open wounds.

An important difference between antiseptics and antibiotics is that bacteria are likely to develop immunity to certain antibiotics after an extended use or if antibiotic therapy was not completed. It is not confirmed that bacteria have the same reaction with extended antiseptic use. To prevent immunity to the antibiotics, a healthcare professional may recommend fully completing the antibiotic therapy to ensure all bacteria have been killed off or using different antibiotics for certain illnesses.

Want to automatically save time and money month? Take a 2-minute quiz to find out how you can start saving up to $257/month.

Bacteria may become resistant to antibiotics after prolonged or recurrent use.
Bacteria may become resistant to antibiotics after prolonged or recurrent use.

Certain types of antiseptics may also inhibit healing and irritate the skin and often require specific methods of use. For example, hydrogen peroxide may require that the area dries completely before a bandage is used, while phenol may cause further damage to the skin if a bandage is used. There are no known similar side effects of antibiotics. As such, if there is an option to choose between antiseptics and antibiotics to treat skin wounds, using an antibiotic cream is generally recommended.

Bacterial cultures may be used to identify the effectiveness of antibiotics for a specific infection.
Bacterial cultures may be used to identify the effectiveness of antibiotics for a specific infection.

Due to the limited function of antiseptics, they are usually used topically to prevent more bacteria and other microorganisms from entering open wounds, but some oral antiseptics do exist. There are a few rare cases in which antiseptics and antibiotics may be options for treating the same infection, such as certain urinary infections. In this case, the severity and type of urinary infection may determine the exact treatment. Antibiotics are primarily taken orally, usually in the form of penicillin, to kill off infection inside the body. There are few antibiotics that may be taken topically, and as with oral antibiotics they usually require a prescription.

Antibiotic creams are generally recommended when treating skin wounds.
Antibiotic creams are generally recommended when treating skin wounds.
One of the primary differences between antiseptics and antibiotics is how they work against bacteria and other microorganisms.
One of the primary differences between antiseptics and antibiotics is how they work against bacteria and other microorganisms.
Antibiotic creams may be applied to sores to prevent infection.
Antibiotic creams may be applied to sores to prevent infection.
Antiseptics may be useful in preventing infection in minor cuts and scrapes.
Antiseptics may be useful in preventing infection in minor cuts and scrapes.
The main difference between antibiotics and antiseptics is antibiotics actually kill bacteria while antiseptics weaken the growth of bacteria.
The main difference between antibiotics and antiseptics is antibiotics actually kill bacteria while antiseptics weaken the growth of bacteria.
Antibiotics may be prescribed in both pill and liquid forms.
Antibiotics may be prescribed in both pill and liquid forms.
Taking certain antibiotics may interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills.
Taking certain antibiotics may interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills.
Because antibiotics kill most bacteria in the body, physicians may suggest probiotic supplements to replenish beneficial bacteria.
Because antibiotics kill most bacteria in the body, physicians may suggest probiotic supplements to replenish beneficial bacteria.
Due to the limited function of antiseptics, they are usually used topically to prevent more bacteria and other microorganisms from entering open wounds.
Due to the limited function of antiseptics, they are usually used topically to prevent more bacteria and other microorganisms from entering open wounds.
Some patients may experience side effects from taking antibiotics.
Some patients may experience side effects from taking antibiotics.

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: