Keeping a surgical incision clean is important, and many people will use a topical antibiotic to do that. In fact, Neosporin has been recommended by doctors for keeping stitches moist for decades. However, is it really a good idea to use Neosporin on stitches?
Long answer: Recently, many physicians have changed their viewpoint on using Neosporin on stitches. In the past, many physicians actually recommended Neosporin for stitches. New information today tells us that may not have been a good idea. We are surrounded by threats to our health such as MRSA. To keep the human race alive, our immune systems have evolved and have become extremely effective at fighting off infection. A lot of the medications we take to fight infection are unnecessary, and they can do more harm than good. Adults with a healthy immune system have a great chance of fighting off the infection themselves, as long as the incision is clean to begin with. Most stitches will heal fine with or without the use of an antibiotic. Antibiotics themselves can be dangerous, so you could be more at risk by using an antibiotic.
No. Neosporin could actually hurt you more than help you. The kind of antibiotics used in Neosporin has a high risk of causing contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is a red, scaly, itchy rash. This is incredibly dry and flaky. It is the same kind of rash you would get if you had an allergic reaction to nickel or poison ivy. This rash can be so uncomfortable that some patients who develop it think that it is an infection at first.
With the repeated usage of Neosporin, 10% of patients will develop an allergy. The antibiotics used in Neosporin were named the Allergen Of The Year by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. That's a pretty big risk to take when you don't actually need to use an antibiotic.
Although you don't need Neosporin on stitches, you do need to keep the stitches clean to prevent infection. The best thing you can do for stitches is to keep the site clean with water and unscented soap. For extra moisture and protection against infection, you could use Vaseline instead of Neosporin on the stitches. Vaseline is cheaper and less risky. In fact, it could even be beneficial. Studies have shown that petroleum can increase the rate of skin growth while reducing scarring. It works greats for keeping the stitches moist. Basically, it does the same thing Neosporin is used for but doesn't carry the same risk of an allergic reaction. It makes more sense to use a petroleum-based product.
I used Neosporin on my stitches - how can I tell if it's contact dermatitis or an infection?
Contact dermatitis can lead many people into falsely believing that their stitches are infected. If you used Neosporin on your stitches, you should know the differences between the two so you can tell if you have an infection.
As you can see, the symptoms of contact dermatitis and stitches are relatively similar. If you believe you have symptoms of either, the best thing you can do is contact your doctor. Infections can become very serious very fast.
If you're positive that you won't have an allergic reaction to antibiotics, it can be safe to use Neosporin. To use Neosporin on stitches, you want to use a Q-tip to apply a thin layer of the antibiotic onto your stitches. This could create a good environment for the stitches to heal. It's recommended to use it twice a day until the stitches are healed if you don't believe you'll have an allergic reaction. Although, it's important to note that you shouldn't use Neosporin just because you can use it. While it all comes down to personal preference, Vaseline can be a much better alternative.
Neosporin can be used to keep stitches clean and moist, but it isn't always the best choice. About 10% of people who use Neosporin on stitches will develop contact dermatitis, which has symptoms similar to an infection. The best thing you can do for your stitches is to keep them clean and use a petroleum-based product to keep the area moist. If you have a healthy immune system, your stitches should heal up well this way.
If you do decide to use Neosporin on stitches, you need to understand you have the risk of having an uncomfortable allergic reaction. Even if you've never had an allergic reaction to antibiotics before, you could develop an allergy at any time in your life. If you aren't one of the 10% who will have an allergic reaction, Neosporin can help your stitches remain infection-free. At the end of the day, it is up to your own personal preference. If you prefer the effects of Neosporin and are okay with the risk of an allergic reaction, then it is generally safe to use Neosporin on your stitches. If you are not okay with the risk of an allergic reaction or you know that you're prone to a reaction, it would probably be best to use another method of keeping your stitches clean.