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One of the most important aspects of maintaining good health is to combat microorganisms that cause disease and infection, and a good way to do this is through the use of an antiseptic. An antiseptic is a substance applied directly to the affected area that either kills microorganisms or prevents them from growing. There are a variety of antiseptics in common use today that can be classified by their active chemical ingredients.
Alcohol antiseptics are generally composed of isopropyl or methyl alcohols. They are commonly used to sterilize hard surfaces such as medical tools at hospitals. Medical personnel also use alcohol gels as hand sanitizers in order to prevent the spread of disease.
Chlorhexidine is used in both oral and skin cleansing products. According to the FDA Professional Drug Information database, chlorhexidine is the active ingredient in prescription mouthwashes such as Peridex. Chlorhexidine antiseptics can be used as a topical treatment applied either directly onto wounds or to unbroken skin before surgery in order to proactively prevent infection.
Idophor antiseptics are usually applied as a topical treatment to unbroken skin or mucus membranes in order to prevent infection before surgery. The Infection Control Services website lists the most well known idophor product as Betadine.
A common peroxygen antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide, can be found in many households. Known for its trademark bubbling reaction to blood and damaged cells, hydrogen peroxide is used to cleanse wounds and disinfect skin. It can also be used as a gargle or mouthwash.
Phenol antiseptics are used primarily as skin disinfectants and can be found in medicated soaps and scrubs. In addition, phenol can also be used in mouthwashes and throat lozenges.
Quaternary Ammonium Compound Antiseptics
"Quats," as they are commonly abbreviated, are a group of chemicals used in antiseptics commonly used to sterilize the skin before surgery. They can also be used for irrigation or as a preservative in eye drops.