When faced with a small cut, burn, or scratch, many people automatically reach for a tube of Neosporin antibiotic ointment. While Neosporin can help prevent infection , it is not always necessary or even advisable to use it .
When to use neosporin
Neosporin is an over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment that contains three separate antibacterial agents: neomycin, bacitracin, and polymyxin. Triple antibiotic ointments are commonly used for minor cuts and abrasions to prevent infection and speed healing.
While some people believe in triple antibiotic ointments, others believe they are not necessary. Using a triple antibiotic ointment can help some abrasions heal faster and with less pain at first. That said , you can often achieve the same results by keeping the dressing cool and moist.
Considerations and side effects
It is important to note that neosporin can sometimes cause contact dermatitis , an allergic reaction characterized by redness, itching, and burning of the skin. When this happens, some people mistake the inflammation for an infection and inject more Neosporin, making the condition worse rather than better.
In most cases, the cause of the allergic reaction is neomycin, in which case you can use Polymycin double antibiotic ointment (bacitracin and polymyxin). Another major concern with neosporin is that overuse can lead to the development of resistance to antibiotics .
Although occasional use of Neosporin is unlikely to cause any harm, constant use of the ointment with every cut, bite, or scrape should be avoided.
In addition, in no case should Neosporin be used on large areas of the skin. If you have a large cut or burn, it is best to see your doctor or emergency room.
Vaseline versus neosporin
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared an antibiotic ointment to plain white petroleum jelly (a medium that contains antibiotics). There was no statistical difference between the use of petroleum jelly with and without an antibiotic.
You can decide to entrust your healing to your body without using an ointment. However, if you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, that interferes with your body's proper healing, talk to your doctor about the best way to deal with minor cuts and scrapes.
How to bandage a wound
Handling minor cuts or scrapes is primarily about keeping them clean, but the only thing you really need to clean is water. Make sure to remove all dirt and particles from the wound, as these can be sources of germs that cause infections .
Soap can help if the wound is very dirty, but you want to make sure that dust or dirt is completely removed. It is not advisable to use alcohol, iodine, peroxide or anything strong that can damage tissues and slow healing.
After cleansing, you can decide whether to apply neosporin in a thin layer or just a little petroleum jelly to keep your skin moist.
Then you can bandage the wound with tape or a sterile bandage. Change the dressing every day, more often if the dressing gets dirty. If the cutting gets dirty or too wet, it should be replaced.
Once the wound has healed enough and there is no more exposed tissue, you can remove the bandage. Don't tear off the scab, let it fall off.
Frequently asked questions
What alternative remedies are good for treating cuts?
Some evidence suggests that honey may have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties in treating certain minor wounds. Curcumin has also been studied and found to have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, which help heal wounds. Talk to your doctor before using an alternative if your wound is large or deep, there are signs of infection, or there is debris that cannot be removed.
What ointment do dermatologists recommend for minor cuts?
According to the American Academy of Dermatological Association, petroleum jelly is usually the best option. They say it needs to be applied constantly to keep the wound moist until it heals. Also, try using a tube instead of a can of petroleum jelly to limit the spread of germs.