Triple antibiotic ointment is a topical solution containing three antibiotics — bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B sulfates — that is used to prevent infection and heal wounds. The combination of antibiotics works to kill bacteria on the surface of the skin, keeping open wounds free of germs that could cause infection. This mixture is typically combined with petroleum jelly or some other type of petroleum base, which helps to further protect the skin and more effectively distribute the antibiotics. The ointment is sold as a gel or as an antibiotic cream.
The trio of antibiotics that work together in this ointment kill germs by weakening their cellular walls. They also slow down the protein synthesis process in the bacteria. Both factors cause bacteria cells to die off, which helps keep a wound clean and stave off infection.
Triple antibiotic ointment is designed to be used for minor injuries. It is meant to be applied to small nicks, scrapes, and cuts and is not intended for use on severe burns, deep wounds, or animal bites. People who are allergic to any of the three antibiotics should avoid this ointment.
Medical professionals recommend that individuals using a triple antibiotic ointment apply the solution no more than three times daily. Generally, a patient will wash the affected area with soap and water and dry it thoroughly before reapplying the ointment. The wound is often covered with a bandage to add another layer of protection to the sensitive area.
Triple antibiotic ophthalmic ointment is a solution intended for use on the eyes, and it is used to treat bacterial infections of the eyelid or the eye itself. It works in the same manner as the topical version to kill germs, and contains the same antibiotics, usually mixed with petroleum jelly and mineral oil to better avoid irritating the eye. Though it is used by humans, this type of ointment is especially popular in treating eye conditions in dogs, cats, and horses.
Major side effects produced by triple antibiotic ointment are exceptionally rare. The only individuals who react negatively in most cases are those with allergies to bacitracin, neomycin, or polymyxin. The ointment is not intended to be taken internally, and medical experts suggest using the product for no more than one week. It is widely available over the counter; enhanced versions, which contain mild painkilling ingredients, are also sold without a prescription.