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An antiseptic is a substance which inhibits the growth and development of microorganisms. For practical purposes, antiseptics are routinely thought of as topical agents, for application to skin, mucous membranes, and inanimate objects, although a formal definition includes agents which are used internally, such as the urinary tract antiseptics. Purpose

Antiseptics are a diverse class of drugs which are applied to skin surfaces or mucous membranes for their anti-infective effects. This may be either bacteriocidal or bacteriostatic. Their uses include cleansing of skin and wound surfaces after injury, preparation of skin surfaces prior to injections or surgical procedures, and routine disinfection of the oral cavity as part of a program of oral hygiene. Antiseptics are also used for disinfection of inanimate objects, including instruments and furniture surfaces. Commonly used antiseptics for skin cleaning include benzalkonium chloride, chlorhexidine, hexachlorophine, iodine compounds, mercury compounds, alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. Other agents which have been used for this purpose, but have largely been supplanted by more effective or safer agents, include boric acid and volatile oils such as methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen.) Chlorhexidine shows a high margin of safety when applied to mucous membranes, and has been used in oral rinses and preoperative total body washes. Benzalkonium chloride and hexachlorophine are used primarily as hand scrubs or face washes. Benzalkonium may also find application is a disinfecting agent for instruments, and in low concentration as a preservative for drugs including ophthalmic solutions. Benzalkonium chloride is inactivated by organic compounds, including soap, and must not be applied to areas which have not been fully rinsed. Iodine compounds include tincture of iodine and povidone iodine compounds. Iodine compounds have the broadest spectrum of all topical anti-infectives, with action against...
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