Iodine (Topical)

Topical iodine is generally used to treat minor wounds, scrapes, and cuts in order to prevent infection setting in.


In the US, iodine can be found under the following brand names:

  • Iodosorb
  • Iodoflex
  • Iodex
  • Aplicare One Tincture Of Iodine

Iodine can be bought without a doctor's prescription in your local pharmacy. It is used in clinics but is primarily designed for home use.

Iodine is an antibacterial drug that is used to dress minor wounds, cuts and scrapes. The medicine works by killing off any bacteria that may be in the injury, preventing an infection from setting in.

Over the counter iodine comes in the form of ointment, tincture, swabs, dressings, gel and jelly.

Iodine is not suitable for use on serious injuries or burns. In this instance, you should see a health care professional for treatment.

Conditions treated

  • Minor wounds, cuts, and scrapes

Type of medicine

  • Antibiotic
  • Gel/jelly
  • Tincture
  • Swabs
  • Dressings
  • Ointment

Side effects

In addition to the effects it is intended to have, iodine can cause a few unwanted side effects that may require further medical attention.

If you notice any of the following effects, you should speak to your health care professional right away:

  • Crusting, blistering, itching, irritation, or redness of the skin around the treated area

Topical iodine should not be swallowed. If it is accidentally consumed, this drug can cause the following side effects. In this event, you must consult your health care professional right away:

  • Vomiting
  • Severe thirst
  • Not being able to pass urine
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal or stomach pain

Some patients who are using iodine have reported other side effects that are not noted in this guide. If you notice anything else untoward while using this medication, check with your treating physician immediately.


You should use topical iodine only as directed by your pharmacist or as per the manufacturer's guidelines on the product label.

You must not swallow this medicine; it is designed for external use only.

Be careful not to get iodine in your eyes, as it could cause pain and inflammation. If you do inadvertently get iodine in your eyes, flush it away immediately with clean, warm water. If irritation persists, check with your health care professional.

You should not use iodine to treat injuries or wounds that are very deep, including serious puncture injuries. Do not use the medicine on serious burns or animal bites. Topical iodine may not be effective in these cases and may also cause side effects. If your injury is severe, always seek medical attention right away.

You must not cover the treated area with any form of bandage or tight dressing, as this could increase the likelihood of side effects. In addition, it is important to allow the air to circulate around the injured site to promote recovery. If the site is covered by a bandage or dressing, the area beneath will become warm and moist, providing the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and set up an infection.

The amount of topical iodine that you use will vary between patients, depending on how strong the preparation is, the form of iodine that you are using, and the variety of injury that you are using it for. The dosage guide below is only based on the treatment of average, minor wounds. If your pharmacist has advised you differently, follow their instructions, those given to you by your health care professional, or the advice in the product usage guide that you will be given with the medicine.

To treat minor skin wounds and infections with topical iodine tincture:

  • Adults and children aged over one month: Follow the directions on the product packaging or your health care professional's instructions. Use when necessary, but do not continue using the product for over ten days.
  • It is not recommended that iodine tincture be used in infants aged under one month.

You must continue to use topical iodine for the full duration of the recommended treatment. If you stop using it too soon, your condition will probably recur.

Do not omit any treatments. If you do forget to use this medicine, try to apply a treatment as soon as you can. However, be careful not to overdo things by doubling the recommended dose, as this could lead to side effects. Simply miss out the treatment you forgot and resume your regular schedule.


Drug interactions

Some medications must not be used together, as this could present a risk of an interaction occurring between them. However, in some cases it may be appropriate to use two drugs at the same time, interactions notwithstanding. In this instance, your health care professional will give you some advice on how to prevent or manage any likely interactions.

If you are already using prescription or over the counter medications, it is advised that you tell your treating physician, before you start using topical iodine, especially if your medicines are designed to treat skin problems.

Other interactions

Some medicines must not be used around the time of eating or eating particular food groups, as this could cause interactions to occur. In addition, the use of tobacco and alcohol should be discussed with your treating physician, as this could also cause interactions in some cases.

Medical interactions

Some historical or existing medical conditions can affect how you use topical iodine. Be sure to tell your health care professional if you are suffering from any other health conditions, especially the following:

  • Serious, penetrating burns
  • Puncture wounds
  • Deep wounds
  • Animal bites


Before you decide to start using any form of medicine, you must consider the pros and cons of doing so. This decision is best made following discussions with your health care professional. In the case of topical iodine, you should consider the following potential issues:

Be sure to mention to your pharmacist or treating physician if you have ever noticed any bad reactions to this medication or to any other drugs, including prescription and over the counter products. Include any known allergies that you have to food colors, preservatives, animal derivatives, or particular food groups.

It is not recommended that topical iodine is used to treat newborn babies or infants, as the drug could cause thyroid and skin problems.

There is no evidence to suggest that using topical iodine in elderly people could cause any problems. If you have any concerns in this regard, you should speak to your health care professional for more advice and information.

As far as can be determined from research studies, topical iodine does not present any threat to the unborn baby, and is therefore considered safe for use by pregnant women. However, if you have sustained a serious burn or deep wound, you should consult your health care professional in case of bacterial infection, which could present a danger to the fetus if left untreated.

It is safe to use iodine if you are breastfeeding. However, you should not use topical iodine to treat nipple rash or chafing, as it could be ingested by a nursing infant, potentially causing harmful side effects. In this instance, you should talk to your GP or midwife for advice on how to treat this problem safely.

If the wound or skin infection that you have been treating with topical iodine does not clear up quickly or if you think that it is getting worse, you should check with your health care professional. This is especially important if you develop a persistent irritation such as burning or itching that you did not have before you began using the medication.

Patients should be aware that topical iodine can cause staining to clothing and skin. Persistent staining on the skin can be removed using rubbing alcohol, although you must take care not to get the alcohol in the wound you are treating. Stained clothing can be cleaned by washing it in a dilute solution of ammonia and water. Starched linen can be cleaned by washing in soap and warm water.


Topical iodine should be kept in its original sealed container at room temperature. Do not freeze the medication. Keep the medicine out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat. Do not allow the medication to get wet.

Keep your topical iodine somewhere that it cannot be accessed by pets or children. If a pet does consume any iodine, contact your emergency vet right away.

Do not keep topical iodine that you no longer need or that has become out of date. Ask your pharmacist or GP for more information on how to dispose of unwanted medication.


Topical iodine is a mild antibiotic that can be purchased from pharmacies for self-treatment at home. This medication is suitable for use on minor cuts, abrasions, and skin damage.

If you suffer a deep, penetrating wound, an animal bite, or serious burns, you must seek medical attention, as iodine is not suitable for these types of injuries.

Although iodine is universally safe to use across all age groups and has very few interactions or side effects, it should not be used to treat infants under one month of age.