Can I Use Peroxide and Alcohol on My Incision?

Question & Answer: Caring For Your Incision

scalpel image
scalpel image. Photo: © Harrison Eastwood/Getty Images

Question: I had surgery a few days ago and my incision doesn’t look as clean as I would like. My friend said I shouldn’t use peroxide or alcohol on the incision. Is she right?

Answer:

You should absolutely NOT use alcohol or peroxide on an incision. 

Unless your surgeon tells you to use peroxide or rubbing alcohol--and I'm quite sure that he won't be recommending either--you should never something that harsh on the healing skin.

Treating your incision with harsh chemicals, scrubbing, being rough with your incision, these are all bad ideas.  Think of your incision as the delicate skin on a baby's bottom, like skin that has to be treated as gently as possible, with the most gentle cleansers and lukewarm water. 

For the first few weeks of the healing process, you should use normal soap (not harsh soaps) and water to clean your incision gently. You should not scrub the incision, and you should not use any ointments, alcohol or peroxide to clean the incision unless otherwise instructed by your surgeon/doctor.

There are several reasons for this. Some ointments actually keep the wound moist, which makes a fertile environment for bacteria. Moist is not good for an incision.  Clean and dry is your goal as you are healing.  Not too clean, as alcohol and peroxide are too drying and irritating to the skin and will slow your healing.

 

In addition, there are many ways to close an incision now that do not use sutures. Applications such as Dermabond and Steri-strips may fall off prematurely if exposed to alcohol, peroxide or scrubbing.

In addition to peroxide and alcohol, body lotions and powders should also be avoided in the area of your incision.

They can increase the changes of infection and can cause irritation to the incision and surrounding skin.  Scented products, in particular, are known to be highly irritating to the healing skin.

In general, treat your incision with gentle loving care, cover it with a bandage if it is draining or if it is rubbed by your clothing, and take a good look at it each day to make sure there are no signs of infection.  It doesn't need any extra stuff applied to it unless you are directed to do so by your surgeon.

More Surgery Information: All About Incision Care

Source:

Dry Skin. National Institutes of Health http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003250.htm

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