Antiseptics are antimicrobial substances which can be in the form of a spray, ointment or cream, applied on the skin to prevent the possibility of an infection. They are usually applied on open wounds to prevent bacteria from getting into the skin tissue and causing an infection. Antiseptics provide conditions that slow the growth of bacteria and also prevent germs and bacteria from spreading through the wound or infected tissue into the body. Antiseptics can either be germicides or bactericidal with both having different properties. Germicides have the capability to destroy microbes that may be on a tissue whereas bactericidal versions are only able to slow or prevent the growth of bacteria. Aside from their different abilities, both these antiseptics are effective for protecting a tissue or wound and speeding up its natural healing process. Antiseptics can be distinguished from antibiotics as antibiotics have the ability to travel through the lymphatic system of the human body and destroy any bacteria or viruses that may be present inside the body. Also disinfectants are different from antiseptics as disinfectants are used to kill bacteria on non-living objects. Any antiseptic that has been proven to have the ability to act against bacteria is referred to as an antibacterial. Antivirals or viricides are terms used to describe microbicides as they can destroy virus particles.
Antiseptics are widely used throughout the world to be applied over fresh open wounds to prevent them from being getting infected by foreign matter and bacteria. However, one should always be careful when using an antiseptic as some individual’s skin may have an allergic reaction to these substances, therefore should only be used upon the recommendation of a doctor. Antiseptics should always be used before applying a bandage over a wound as they help to clean up the wound, kill or limit the growth of any bacteria that might be present there and also extract oils from the skin surface that would prevent the bandage from sticking on the wound. Antiseptics are commonly used for minor injuries, cuts and burns, but should not be used for serious injuries such as deep cuts, long term infections, punctures and cuts that have continual bleeding. For such injuries a professional doctor should be consulted as a more complex treatment may be required to treat these injuries.
One of the most widely used antiseptic, alcohol antiseptics are usually composed of ethanol, 1-propanol or methyl alcohols. Often referred to as surgical alcohols, they are used to sterilize equipment such as medical tools or disinfect skin tissues before injections are given. Hand sanitizers can be commonly found in hospitals, food outlets, offices and even in schools. These substances usually contain alcohol and they help to cleanse hands to prevent the spread of diseases.
One of the most popular oral antiseptic, chlorhexidine, when used on its own is taken in concentrations of 0.5% to 4.0% or in lower concentrations when used with another compound such as alcohol. Chlorhexidine is commonly found in mouthwash solutions and can also be used as a skin antiseptic. It can also be used to treat the inflammation of gums. Although its microbicidal action can be slow, it still is remanent. Similarly to alcohol antiseptics, these antiseptics can also be applied onto wounds or broken skin to cleanse the tissues before treatment.
Quaternary Ammonium Compound Antiseptics
Better known as Quats, these are a group of chemicals often used in antiseptics to aid the sterilization of skin before surgery. They can also be found in eye drops.
On of the most common peroxygen antiseptic is hydrogen peroxide which is commonly found in households. It has a bubbling reaction when got in contact with blood and damaged cells. These antiseptics also are used to cleanse wounds and disinfect skin. Similarly to chlorhexidine, these antiseptics can also be used in mouthwash.