What is chlorhexidine?

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Generic Name: Chlorhexidine Brand Name(s): Generics only. No brands available.

Know the basics

What is chlorhexidine used for?

Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic that fights bacteria infections. Chlorhexidine topical (for the skin) is used to clean the skin to prevent infection that may be caused by surgery, injection, or skin injury. Chlorhexidine solution can be used for mouth and throat inflammatory conditions. It belongs to drug class called skin antiseptics and disinfectants and preparations for oral ulceration and inflammation.

How should I take chlorhexidine?

Follow medication guide provided by your doctor or pharmacist before you start using this medication. If you have any questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Do not take by mouth. Chlorhexidine topical is for use only on the skin.

Rinse the skin before applying chlorhexidine topical. Apply only enough medicine to cover the area you are treating. Do not apply this medicine to deep cuts, scrapes, or open skin wounds.

To use chlorhexidine topical soap, apply only enough to cover the area you are treating. Wash the area gently, then rinse thoroughly with plain water. Avoid using over large areas of skin.

This medicine is made under sterile conditions, but its contents are not sterilized. It is possible for bacteria to get inside the product and contaminate it, which could spread infection. To avoid contaminating your medicine with bacteria:

  • Use only the swab, pad, or applicator provided with your medicine.
  • If no applicator is provided, use only a clean cotton ball or cotton swab to apply this medicine.
  • Do not touch the tip of the medicine bottle with your fingers or touch it to your skin.
  • Do not dilute the medicine with water or other liquid.
  • Use the applicator (pad, swab, or other dressing) only once. Throw away after one use.

Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, or if they get worse while using chlorhexidine topical.

How do I store chlorhexidine?

Chlorhexidine is best stored at room temperature away from direct light and moisture. To prevent drug damage, you should not store chlorhexidine in the bathroom or the freezer. There may be different brands of chlorhexidine that may have different storage needs. It is important to always check the product package for instructions on storage, or ask your pharmacist. For safety, you should keep all medicines away from children and pets.

You should not flush chlorhexidine down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. It is important to properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist for more details about how to safely discard your product.

Know the precautions & warnings

What should I know before using chlorhexidine?

You should not use chlorhexidine topical if you are allergic to it.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to use this medicine if you have any allergies to food, dyes, animals, or medicines.

Be very careful when using chlorhexidine topical on a child younger than 2 months old. This medication may cause severe irritation or chemical burns on a very young child.

Is it safe to take chlorhexidine during pregnancy or breast-feeding?

There are no adequate studies in women for determining risk when using this medication during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Please always consult with your doctor to weigh the potential benefits and risks before taking this medication. This medication is pregnancy risk category C according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA pregnancy risk category reference below:

  • A=No risk,
  • B=No risk in some studies,
  • C=There may be some risk,
  • D=Positive evidence of risk,
  • X=Contraindicated,
  • N=Unknown.

Know the side effects

What are the side effects of chlorhexidine?

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using chlorhexidine topical and call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • severe burning, itching, or redness;
  • blistering or peeling;
  • swelling or severe skin rash; or
  • any other severe irritation of treated skin.

Not everyone experiences these side effects. There may be some side effects not listed above. If you have any concerns about a side-effect, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Know the interactions

What drugs may interact with chlorhexidine?

Chlorhexidine may interact with other drugs that you are currently taking, which can change how your drug works or increase your risk for serious side effects. To avoid any potential drug interactions, you should keep a list of all the drugs you are using (including prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. For your safety, do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any drugs without your doctor’s approval.

Does food or alcohol interact with chlorhexidine?

Chlorhexidine may interact with food or alcohol by altering the way the drug works or increase the risk for serious side effects. Please discuss with your doctor or pharmacist any potential food or alcohol interactions before using this drug.

What health conditions may interact with chlorhexidine?

Chlorhexidine may interact with your health condition. This interaction may worsen your health condition or alter the way the drug works. It is important to always let your doctor and pharmacist know all the health conditions you currently have, especially:

  • Deep or open skin wounds—Some products should not be used for this condition. Use the medicine only as directed by your doctor.

Understand the dosage

The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor or pharmacist before using this medication.

What is the dose of Chlorhexidine for an adult?

Usual Adult Dose for Gingivitis:

15 mL twice daily after brushing. Oral rinse should be retained for 30 seconds then expectorated after rinsing.

Usual Adult Dose for Mucositis:

15 mL twice daily after brushing. Oral rinse should be retained for 30 seconds then expectorated after rinsing.

Usual Adult Dose for Periodontitis:

Initial: One 2.5 mg chip inserted into a periodontal pocket with probing pocket depth greater than or equal to 5 mm, up to 8 chips in one visit.

Maintenance: Administration is recommended once every 3 months in pockets with remaining probing depth greater than or equal to 5 mm.

What is the dose of Chlorhexidine for a child?

Usual Pediatric Dose for Gingivitis:

The safety and efficacy of chlorhexidine gluconate has not been established in patients less than 18 years old. However, the use of chlorhexidine gluconate may be appropriate in some situations.

15 mL twice daily after brushing. Oral rinse should be retained for 30 seconds then expectorated after rinsing.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Mucositis:

The safety and efficacy of chlorhexidine gluconate has not been established in patients less than 18 years old. However, the use of chlorhexidine gluconate may be appropriate in some situations.

15 mL twice daily after brushing. Oral rinse should be retained for 30 seconds then expectorated after rinsing.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Periodontitis:

The safety and efficacy of chlorhexidine gluconate has not been established in patients less than 18 years old. However, the use of chlorhexidine gluconate may be appropriate in some situations.

Initial: One 2.5 mg chip inserted into a periodontal pocket with probing pocket depth greater than or equal to 5 mm, up to 8 chips in one visit.

Maintenance: Administration is recommended once every 3 months in pockets with remaining probing depth greater than or equal to 5 mm.

How is chlorhexidine available?

Chlorhexidine is available in the following dosage forms and strengths:

  • Solution, oral rinse: 0.12%
  • Liquid, topical: 0.5%, 2%, 4%

What should I do in case of an emergency or overdose?

In case of an emergency or an overdose, call your local emergency services or go to your nearest emergency room.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of chlorhexidine , take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your regular dose as scheduled. Do not take a double dose.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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