Calamine (Topical)

Calamine is a topical treatment that is used to soothe the irritation caused by many minor skin irritations.

Overview

Calamine is a topical treatment that is frequently used to soothe the itchiness, pain, and irritation that is often caused by many minor skin conditions. The treatment is also effective in drying any weeping or oozing of the affected areas. There are a number of conditions that may be treated with calamine including:

  • poison sumac
  • poison oak
  • poison ivy

Calamine can also be used to ease the irritation caused by chicken pox, dissuading children from scratching the scabs and potentially scarring the underlying skin. Calamine lotion can also be used to cool the skin and relieve the irritation that is caused by eczema and diaper rash.

Calamine has two primary ingredients: ferrous oxide and zinc oxide. Zinc has antiseptic and astringent properties, and it also absorbs moisture. This makes it very useful for treating weeping sores. Calamine is not readily water soluble, meaning that it will keep your skin dry when it comes into contact with alkaline liquids such as urine, which is why it is so useful in treating diaper rash. Calamine absorbs both UVA and UVB ultraviolet light, providing additional protection to skin inflammations when you are outside.

Calamine is available from your pharmacy without a prescription and comes in topical form as a lotion, ointment, or cream.

Conditions treated

  • minor skin irritations

Type of medicine

  • lotion
  • ointment
  • cream

Side-effects

Together with its desired effects, some medication can cause a few unwanted side-effects. Most people who use calamine do not experience any ill-effects, but if you do find that you are suffering from any bothersome effects, you may need to ask your doctor for an alternative product that suits you better.

A few people who use calamine find that it causes increased skin irritation.

In a few rare cases, patients suffer a severe allergic reaction to calamine. If you notice any swelling, especially around your face, throat, or tongue, or if you develop a rash that itches, or experience dizziness or breathing difficulties, you should call 911. These symptoms could indicate that you are suffering a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Dosage

Calamine is a topical treatment for use on the skin only; it must not be consumed internally. Avoid getting calamine in your eyes, inside your mouth, inside your nose, and do not use the product on your genitals or anal area. If the treatment does get onto any of these areas, flush them thoroughly straight away with clean water.

Tell your doctor if your condition worsens or does not improve within seven days of starting the treatment.

Using calamine lotion

  • When it has been left to stand for a while, calamine lotion tends to separate. Shake the bottle well before use to ensure that the clear liquid and thicker, pink liquid are thoroughly mixed.
  • Moisten a small pad of cotton with the treatment and apply it to the affected areas of the skin.
  • Leave the lotion to dry on the skin. Do not wash it off.

Using calamine ointment

  • Apply sufficient calamine ointment to lightly cover all affected skin areas.
  • Gently rub the ointment into the skin.

The dose of this medication will vary between patients. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how much to use and how often to use it, or you can follow the directions on the product label. The information given here is based on the average recommended dose for this treatment. If your doctor advises you to use a different dose, do not alter it unless you are told to do so by a health professional.

You should note that the amount of calamine you are recommended to use, the time you should leave between treatments, and the duration of your course of treatment will depend on a number of factors. For example, the condition you are using the product to treat, your age, and body weight are all factors that may be taken into consideration when working out the correct dose.

For the treatment of minor skin conditions

  • Adults: apply the lotion or ointment to all affected areas of the skin several times daily, as required.
  • Children: apply the lotion or ointment to all affected areas of the skin several times daily, as required, or as directed by your doctor.

Drug Interactions

Calamine has no reported major drug interactions. However, drug interactions can change the way in which your medications work and can sometimes cause the risk of you suffering serious side-effects to increase. Before you begin using calamine topical on yourself or on your child, be sure to mention to your doctor any drugs that you already use. This should include any prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamin supplements, and herbal preparations.

Do not stop, start, or change the dose of any of the medications that you are taking without the prior approval of your doctor.

Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your treating physician may recommend that you use a combination of different drugs and there may be an interaction between them. Be guided by your doctor and do not start using anything else on your skin together with calamine topical without first seeking medical advice.

Warnings

You should make regular visits to see your doctor for check-ups while you or your child is using calamine topical. These visits provide your doctor with the opportunity to see if the treatment is working and to decide if you should continue to use it. You can also mention any side-effects that you have noticed if appropriate.

In a very small number of patients, calamine topical can cause anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a very serious condition that requires immediate urgent medical attention. Symptoms of anaphylactic shock typically include irregular or accelerated breathing, struggling for breath, and losing consciousness. The patient's heartbeat may become extremely irregular or elevated, and swellings may appear around the tongue, mouth, and throat. If any of these side-effects appear, you should summon emergency medical assistance at once.

If your condition gets worse or fails to show improvement within seven days, or if a rash or other irritation develops, you should stop using calamine immediately. Wash the lotion or ointment off your skin with mild soap and warm water, and consult your doctor for advice.

Although it is not reported that calamine can cause harm to an unborn baby, if you are pregnant or if you are planning to become pregnant during your course of treatment, you should discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.

It is not known if this treatment can be passed into breast milk where it could pose a risk to breastfeeding infants. Ask your midwife or doctor for advice if you are already breastfeeding or if you are planning to do so during the course of your treatment. It may be advisable to use alternative feeding methods for your infant until you have stopped using calamine.

Storage

Calamine lotion and ointment should be kept at room temperature. Keep the bottle or container tightly sealed and place the bottle upright to avoid leakage.

Do not freeze the lotion or ointment or keep it in the fridge.

Do not leave the treatment in direct sunlight. Do not expose the medicine to radiators, fires or other heat sources. Keep the medication dry.

Calamine topical can be harmful if consumed. Keep the medication out of reach of children and pets. In the event that a pet consumes the medicine, seek veterinary advice immediately.

Do not use the medication once it has passed its use-by date or if the packaging is open or appears damaged. Although out-of-date medication is not harmful, its efficacy will not be as great and the treatment may not work properly.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for directions on how to dispose of your old or unused medication. Do not tip leftover calamine lotion down the toilet or sink. Do not discard unwanted medications with your trash, where it could be found by children or pets.

Summary

Calamine lotion and ointment is a topical treatment that is used to soothe many minor skin irritations, including poison ivy, diaper rash, and eczema. Calamine lotion is also useful in treating the rash caused by chicken pox, dissuading children from scratching the scabs, which could cause permanent scarring to the underlying skin and may also cause a skin infection.

Calamine is available without prescription and is available in topical form as a lotion, ointment, or cream.

This medication does not have any major drug interactions to be aware of, and it is safe for use in both adults and children.

The medication is extremely effective in soothing the pain, itching, and discomfort of many minor skin conditions. However, to achieve the best results, you should follow you're the guidance given by your doctor in order to find the appropriate dose and frequency of use for this treatment. If the symptoms do not resolve within seven days of commencing treatment with calamine topical, your doctor may suggest alternative therapy, which could potentially include skin tests.

Resources
Last Reviewed:
December 23, 2017
Last Updated:
April 04, 2018