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For Minor Cuts, Petroleum Jelly Beats Antibiotics

Triple antibiotic ointments, such as Neosporin have long been the go-to options for treating and disinfecting minor cuts and wounds. However, the medical community has shifted to urge people to make the switch to using plain ol’ petroleum jelly instead. Why? Let’s talk about that!

What Is The Difference?

Triple antibiotic ointment contains 3 active ingredients that are responsible for its antimicrobial function: polymyxin B, bacitracin, and neomycin. It works by stopping bacterial growth on the skin. It is commonly used to treat minor cuts, scrapes, and burns.

Petroleum jelly, commonly known from brands* such as Vaseline and A&D, is used primarily as a moisturizer to treat and prevent dry, rough, itchy skin. It works by creating a water-protective barrier on the skin, helping skin heal and retain moisture.

Why Move Away from Antibiotic Ointment?

The reason for this is that neomycin – one of the active ingredients – commonly causes allergic contact dermatitis. This irritating, inflammatory condition makes skin itchy and red, often appearing as a rash.

In addition, some recent research shows that killing all bacteria at the site of a cut can actually slow down healing, so the ointment’s antibacterial properties might not be as beneficial as we’ve previously believed. This, alongside the possibility of dermatitis, makes antibiotic ointment a less optimal choice for treating cuts and minor wounds.

Why Switch to Petroleum Jelly?

The three active ingredients in antibiotic ointments are all held together by petroleum jelly, or petrolatum, already. It is this component that promotes the healing work that has long been attributed to these ointments. So, why not take away the antibiotic elements that might be ineffective, and perhaps not tolerated well by some individuals.

What Does This Mean For You?

So, does this mean that you must go through your entire household and toss all the triple antibiotic you can find? No, not necessarily. If you’ve used it in the past and find that it works well for you and your family – it’s likely safe to continue doing so. Think back to previous applications and try to recall if there was some redness or irritation at the site of any scrapes or cuts. If there was, considering switching to petroleum jelly is a good idea.

In the future, keep this information in mind as you are restocking your medicine cabinets and first aid kits. And remember – medical guidance always evolves as new research helps us learn new things. So, make sure to keep an eye out for emerging information about common medicines and treatments in case they, too, go the way of the dodo.

*This is intended for informational purposes only. PM Pediatric Care does not endorse any particular brand of product.