In a recent press release, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) indicated that cold weather can be tough on the skin and when the skin is dry—which occurs frequently in the winter—the skin can easily crack and bleed. Moreover, in many instances, individuals may be inclined to apply an OTC antibiotic cream or ointment onto the skin to prevent infections. However, a dermatologist indicates that the use of these antibiotic creams and ointments can sometimes irritate the skin and possibly cause contact dermatitis.
Board-certified dermatologist Marcelyn Coley, MD, FAAD, stated, "In addition to causing irritation and a rash, the widespread use of antibiotics—including in instances when they aren't needed—has contributed to a major public health challenge known as antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when germs, such as bacteria, develop the ability to survive the drugs designed to kill them. That means the germs continue to grow. This makes infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs difficult—and sometimes impossible—to treat."
Dr. Coley also noted that most minor cuts and wounds (even surgical wounds) do not need the use of antibiotics, and the only time antibiotics are usually required is in the case of an infection. The signs that a wound may be infected include pus; yellow or golden crusts; pain; red, purple or brown skin; swelling or warmth; red (in light skin) or brownish red (in dark skin) streaks; feeling very hot or cold; or fever.
Dr. Coley recommends skipping the antibiotics if the wound is not showing any signs of an infection and recommends that individuals employ the following measures:
Keep the skin injury clean: Wash hands before touching the wound, and gently wash the wound daily with mild soap and water to keep out germs. As long as the wound is cleaned daily, it is not necessary to use an antibiotic ointment.
Apply plain petroleum jelly to keep the wound moist. To prevent spreading dirt and bacteria, choose petroleum jelly that comes in a tube instead of a jar.
Keep the wound covered with an adhesive bandage. For large scrapes, sores, burns or persistent redness, it may be helpful to use hydrogel or silicone gel sheets instead.
Dr. Coley also stated, "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are not needed. If you injure your skin and have questions about how to treat it, talk to a board-certified dermatologist."
The press release also provided information about their patient education video entitled "When to Use (or Not Use) Antibiotics on Your Skin."
The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.
« Click here to return to OTC Update.
Published March 9, 2022