Bacitracin, also known as polysporin, is an antibiotic found in a number of ointments for application to the skin, either alone or with other antibiotics. Widely regarded as safe when used as directed, bacitracin zinc ointment has a number of benefits. However, as with any medication, it is possible to have allergic or adverse reactions to, or to overdose on, this medication. Always follow the directions found on packaging or inserts, or use as directed by your physician.
Availability and Ease of Use
Easily available without a prescription in pharmacies and large grocery stores, most bacitracin zinc ointments are made of a petroleum jelly base with small amounts of the antibiotic and zinc mixed into it. It is also found combined with polymyin and neosporin to form a so-called triple antibiotic compound, which offers a broader spectrum of bactericidal action. Bacitracin zinc ointment is easy to use. After washing the wound, apply the medication following package directions. To prevent contamination of the remaining ointment, do not touch the tip of the tube to the wound. Do not exceed the dosage or frequency of application given on the package.
Bacitracin zinc ointment can be used for a variety of minor cuts, scrapes and burns. A type of bacitracin ointment can be used to treat eye conditions. Make sure that any ointments that are meant for use in the eye specify that they are "ophthalmic" ointments. The petroleum jelly base of bacitracin zinc ointment helps moisturize the wound and surrounding skin for greater comfort.
While allergic reactions to bacitracin zinc ointment are rare, they can happen. The most common allergic reaction to the ointment is skin redness and itching, and contact dermatitis is sometimes seen. Should you experience signs of allergy to this medication, call your physician. If signs of severe allergy occur, such as swelling of the lips, mouth, throat or tongue, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, seek emergency help immediately.
Although bacitracin zinc ointment is considered very safe and overdoses are unusual, they can occur, especially with children. Eating bacitracin zinc ointment either intentionally or unintentionally can cause stomach or abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irritation of the eyes, mouth, throat, nose and skin, coughing, chills, fever and shortness of breath. Contact your local poison control center immediately if you suspect that someone has ingested this medication.