As winter winds leave your skin dry, cracked and prone to cuts and bleeding, a skin expert says you should resist the urge to use antibiotic creams or ointments.
While it might seem sensible to use antibiotic topicals to combat germs and prevent infection with cuts, they can irritate your skin even more and cause a painful and/or itchy rash called contact dermatitis, dermatologist Dr. Marcelyn Coley warns.
“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,” Coley said in an American Academy of Dermatology news release.
What is antibiotic resistance?
“Antibiotic resistance occurs when germs, such as bacteria, develop the ability to survive the drugs designed to kill them,” she explains. “That means the germs continue to grow. This makes infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs difficult — and sometimes impossible — to treat.”
When are antibiotics needed?
Most minor cuts and wounds, and even surgical wounds, do not require antibiotics, Coley shares.
The only time antibiotics are typically needed is when there is an infection. Signs of infection include:
- Yellow crusts
- Red or purple skin
- Reddish streaks
- Swelling or warmth
- Feeling very hot or cold
What are the alternatives to antibiotics?
If your wound doesn’t have any signs of an infection, skip the antibiotics and take the following steps instead, Coley advises: