Can You Put Neosporin on an Open Wound? (2023)

Neosporin can help keep a cut from getting infected, but it should not be used on every type of open wound. A minor cut, burn, or scrape might be fine to treat with antibiotic ointment, but it is not a treatment for deeper wounds.

This article explains what Neosporin is, the types of wounds you can treat with Neosporin, the side effects of Neosporin, and when to see a healthcare provider instead of treating a cut at home.

How to Tell If a Cut Is Infected

When to Use Neosporin

Neosporin is an over-the-counter (OTC) triple-antibiotic ointment. It contains three antibacterial agents: neomycin, bacitracin, and polymyxin. Triple-antibiotic ointments are commonly used to prevent infection and encourage healing.

Using a triple-antibiotic ointment may help minor cuts and scrapes heal quickly and with less pain. However, the ointments are not necessary for every kind of wound. You can often get the same results by bandaging the cut, keeping it moist, and changing the dressing often.

What to Do If You Cut Yourself While Cooking

Neosporin vs. Petroleum Jelly

An antibiotic ointment like Neosporin is basically petroleum jelly with antibiotics added to it.

In the 1990s, researchers compared antibiotic ointment to petroleum jelly to see which treatment was best for wound healing. The study found that there was no statistical difference between using petroleum jelly with an antibiotic and using the jelly without an antibiotic.

Most people with healthy immune systems can heal from a minor cut, burn, or scrape without using an ointment like Neosporin.

However, if you have a medical condition that increases your risk for infections or affects your body's ability to heal (such as diabetes) ask your healthcare provider about how you should treat wounds.

How to Take Care of a Wound Step-by-Step

Neosporin Side Effects and Considerations

Neosporin can have side effects, and there are some important things you should know before you use it.

Some people develop an allergic reaction to Neosporin that causes redness, itching, and burning of their skin (contact dermatitis). They might think the skin reaction is a sign of infection and put on more Neosporin, which actually makes the inflammation worse rather than better.

The neomycin in the ointment is most often the cause of the allergic reaction. If a person has a reaction, a double-antibiotic ointment like Polymycin (which only has bacitracin and polymyxin in it) can be used instead.

Another major concern about Neosporin is that using the product too much or for too long may lead to the antibiotics not working as well or not working at all (antibiotic resistance).

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria are no longer effectively "wiped out" by the antibiotics that are usually used to treat them. This can happen after they have been exposed to the antibiotic many times.

For example, astudy published in Emerging Infectious Diseases suggested that OTC topical antibiotics have contributed to the rise of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.

The occasional use of Neosporin is unlikely to cause any harm, but you don't want to (or need to) use the ointment for every cut, bite, or scrape.

(Video) Applying Neosporin and a Bandage to My Wound

Can Neosporin Be Used on Large or Deep Wounds?

You should never use Neosporin on large areas of skin. If you get a large or deep cut or burn, it needs to be treated by healthcare provider or at an urgent care facility.

Can You Treat a Laceration at Home?

How to Dress a Wound

Treating a minor cut or scratch is mostly about keeping it clean—but the only thing you really need for this is water.

Can You Put Neosporin on an Open Wound? (1)

Here are step-by-step instructions for caring for a wound at home:

  • First, rinse the wound with water to make sure all dirt and particles are removed. These substances can be sources of germs that lead to infection.
  • Soap can help if the wound is grimy. Make sure that any grit or dirt is completely rinsed away. Do not use alcohol, iodine, peroxide, or anything harsh. These products can damage the tissues and delay healing.
  • After cleansing, decide whether to apply a thin layer of Neosporin or just a little petroleum jelly to keep the skin moist.
  • Next, dress the wound with anadhesive bandage or a sterile dressing.
  • Change the dressing every day. You'll need to change it more often if the bandage gets dirty or wet.
  • Once the wound has healed and there is no more exposed tissue, remove the bandage.
  • Do not pick the scab, just let it fall off on its own.

Basic First Aid for a Finger Cut

Summary

Neosporin is a triple antibiotic ointment that's available without a prescription at most pharmacies and grocery stores.

Neosporin ointment can help treat minor cuts, abrasions, and burns, and may help speed healing and ease the pain. However, proper wound care can do the same thing without the need for a topical antibiotic, which comes with side effects and risks.

Neosporin is generally safe but is not always necessary. It's also not appropriate to use on large areas of injury or deep cuts or burns. These wounds need to be treated by a healthcare provider.

When to See a Healthcare Provider for an Infected Cut

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Neosporin good for treating burns?

    Neosporin may help treat a minor burn, but it should never be used on a large area of skin, especially if you have a chronic skin condition. Serious burns or deep cuts should be treated by a healthcare provider.

  • Can you put Neosporin on a deep cut?

    (Video) Do open wounds need air to heal?

    Neosporin should only be used for minor skin wounds. If a large area of skin is injured or the wound is deep, it needs to be treated by a healthcare provider. You may need to be seen at an urgent care clinic or emergency room.

  • Does Neosporin draw out infection?

    The best way to prevent a wound infection is to make sure that you clean the wound of any debris, like dirt. Neosporin (and even just petroleum jelly) can help keep the skin moist and promote healing. The antibiotic part of Neosporin can also help prevent infection.

  • What ointment is usually recommend for minor cuts?

    According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, petroleum jelly is usually the best ointment for minor cuts.

    Apply it continuously to keep the wound moist until it heals. It also helps to use petroleum jelly from a tube instead of a jar to limit the spread of germs.

  • What is bacitracin?

    Bacitracin is one of three antibacterial agents in Neosporin. The other two are neomycin and polymyxin.

How to Tell If You Need Stitches

14 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Heal CF, Banks JL, Lepper PD, Kontopantelis E, van Driel ML. Topical antibiotics for preventing surgical site infection in wounds healing by primary intention.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;11(11):CD011426. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011426.pub2

  2. Jones RN, Li Q, Kohut B, Biedenbach DJ, Bell J, Turnidge JD. Contemporary antimicrobial activity of triple antibiotic ointment: a multiphased study of recent clinical isolates in the United States and Australia. Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 2006;54(1):63-71. doi:10.1016/j.diagmicrobio.2005.08.009

  3. Tong QJ, Hammer KD, Johnson EM, Zegarra M, Goto M, Lo TS. A systematic review and meta-analysis on the use of prophylactic topical antibiotics for the prevention of uncomplicated wound infections.Infect Drug Resist. 2018;11:417–425. doi:10.2147/IDR.S151293

  4. Smack DP, Harrington AC, Dunn C, et al. Infection and allergy incidence in ambulatory surgery patients using white petrolatum vs bacitracin ointment. A randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1996;276(12):972-7. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540120050033

  5. Shahbazian JH, Hartzell TL, Pandey AK, Azari KK. Allergic dermatitis due to topical antibiotics.West J Emerg Med. 2012;13(4):380–382. doi:10.5811/westjem.2011.9.6851

  6. Moore NA, Czyz CN, Carter TD, Foster JA, Cahill KV. Neomycin, polymyxin B, and dexamethasone allergic reactions following periocular surgery.J Ophthalmic Inflamm Infect. 2017;7(1):15. doi:10.1186/s12348-017-0133-4

  7. Chokshi A, Sifri Z, Cennimo D, Horng H. Global contributors to antibiotic resistance [published correction appears in J Glob Infect Dis. 2019 Jul-Sep;11(3):131].J Glob Infect Dis. 2019;11(1):36–42. doi:10.4103/jgid.jgid_110_18

  8. Suzuki M, Yamada K, Nagao M, et al. Antimicrobial ointments and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus USA300.Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(10):1917–1920. doi:10.3201/eid1710.101365

  9. Williamson DA, Carter GP, Howden BP. Current and emerging topical antibacterials and antiseptics: Agents, action, and resistance patterns.Clin Microbiol Rev. 2017;30(3):827–860. doi:10.1128/CMR.00112-16

  10. Drexler M; Institute of Medicine (US). What you need to know about infectious disease. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US).

  11. Negut I, Grumezescu V, Grumezescu AM. Treatment strategies for infected wounds.Molecules. 2018;23(9):2392.doi:10.3390/molecules23092392

  12. Sood A, Granick MS, Tomaselli NL. Wound dressings and comparative effectiveness data.Adv Wound Care (New Rochelle). 2014;3(8):511–529. doi:10.1089/wound.2012.0401

  13. Dhivya S, Padma VV, Santhini E. Wound dressings - a review.Biomedicine (Taipei). 2015;5(4):22. doi:10.7603/s40681-015-0022-9

  14. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to treat minor cuts.

    (Video) Dr. Sugai Explains: Common Wound Care Mistakes Part 1 #shorts

(Video) Stop Using Triple Antibiotic Ointment | Wound Care | Voyage Direct Primary Care

Can You Put Neosporin on an Open Wound? (2)

By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.

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FAQs

Is it OK to put Neosporin on an open wound? ›

Antibiotic ointments (such as Neosporin) help wounds heal by keeping out infection and by keeping the wound clean and moist. If your child has stitches, your doctor will tell you whether you should use an antibiotic ointment. Most cuts and scrapes heal without antibiotic ointment.

When should you not use Neosporin? ›

Do not apply the ointment over large skin areas. Do not use on a deep cut, an animal bite, or a serious burn. Contact your doctor for instructions on how to treat these more severe skin injuries. This medication can be applied up to 3 times each day, or as directed on the medicine label.

Why do doctors say not to use Neosporin? ›

Improper and unnecessary use of antibiotics run the risk of overgrowth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This phenomenon is a public health problem that leaves many people with infections and side effects from Neosporin products that are hard to treat.

What is the best ointment for open wounds? ›

Bacitracin or Polysporin ointment is OK to use for 1-2 weeks 5. Cover the wound with a band-aid or nonstick gauze pad and paper tape. 6. Repeat wound care once a day until wound is completely healed with no open or draining areas.

What is the fastest way to heal an open wound? ›

Strategies to Speed Up Wound Healing Process
  1. Apply Antibacterial Ointment on Wounds. ...
  2. Application of Aloe Vera Gel. ...
  3. Application of Honey on Wound. ...
  4. Turmeric Paste Application on Wound. ...
  5. Garlic Has Positive Effect on Wound Healing. ...
  6. Apply Coconut Oil to Speed Up Healing.
13 May 2022

How long should you use Neosporin on an open wound? ›

Do not use this product for longer than 1 week unless directed by your doctor.

Does Neosporin or Vaseline heal faster? ›

They gave small skin wounds to human participants and applied Vaseline or Neosporin. The people who applied Vaseline healed faster than those who applied Neosporin to their wounds. This suggests that Neosporin kills the bacteria and makes the wounds heal slower, Garza said.

How do you heal an open wound? ›

These guidelines can help you care for minor cuts and scrapes:
  1. Wash your hands. This helps avoid infection.
  2. Stop the bleeding. ...
  3. Clean the wound. ...
  4. Apply an antibiotic or petroleum jelly. ...
  5. Cover the wound. ...
  6. Change the dressing. ...
  7. Get a tetanus shot. ...
  8. Watch for signs of infection.

Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered? ›

A handful of studies have found that when wounds are kept moist and covered, blood vessels regenerate faster and the number of cells that cause inflammation drop more rapidly than they do in wounds allowed to air out. It is best to keep a wound moist and covered for at least five days.

What ointment is better than Neosporin? ›

Alternatives. Petroleum jelly products, such as Vaseline, can be good alternatives to bacitracin or Neosporin. The jelly keeps wounds from drying out, which can prevent or ease itching and other unpleasant symptoms.

When should you stop covering a wound? ›

When to stop covering a wound. You should keep a wound moist and covered for about five days. Change the bandage daily (or more, if the cut reopens or begins bleeding again).

What is a natural alternative to Neosporin? ›

1. Aloe vera. Perhaps you've used aloe vera in the past for a sunburn, yet the gel-like substance from the leaves of this subtropical plant may be used for other skin problems, too.

How do you heal an open wound naturally? ›

The following are some alternative methods and remedies people can try to make wounds heal faster:
  1. Antibacterial ointment. A person can treat a wound with several over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial ointments, which can help prevent infections. ...
  2. Aloe vera. ...
  3. Honey. ...
  4. Turmeric paste. ...
  5. Garlic. ...
  6. Coconut oil.
26 Nov 2020

Which ointment heal wound fast? ›

Elastoplast Wound Healing Ointment creates a breathable film that protects the wound from external influences while preventing the wound from drying out. This is clinically proven to promote faster wound healing and reduce the risk of scarring. The Elastoplast Wound Healing Ointment is very skin friendly.

What can you put on wounds that won't heal? ›

Cellular activity slows as function is restored. Keeping a wound clean and moist is vital to proper healing. Using mild soap and water prior to applying antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly and covering with a bandage or dressing is often sufficient in providing a wound the necessary environment to repair itself.

Does Neosporin make you heal faster? ›

It's also important to understand that Neosporin does not speed up wound healing compared to petrolatum. In 1996, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study comparing antibiotic ointment with plain petrolatum jelly.

How long does it take for an open wound to heal? ›

How long it takes: Usually between 4-24 days. You can help the healing process stay on track by keeping the new tissue on wounds clean and hydrated. Signs it's working: During this stage, the granulation tissue over your wound is typically pink or red and uneven in texture – and it usually doesn't bleed.

How do you tell if a wound is healing or infected? ›

After the initial discharge of a bit of pus and blood, your wound should be clear. If the discharge continues through the wound healing process and begins to smell bad or have discoloration, it's probably a sign of infection.

Should you put antibiotic ointment on an open wound? ›

Don't apply a topical antibiotic. Studies show that petroleum jelly is just as effective as an antibiotic ointment for non-infected wounds. Don't douse a minor wound with antiseptics like iodine or hydrogen peroxide. They're actually harmful to the skin and can delay healing.

Can I shower with an open wound? ›

Yes, you can have a bath or a shower. If your wound does not have a dressing in place when you go home, then you can have a bath or a shower, simply let water run over the wound. If your wound does have a dressing then you can still bathe or shower.

Is triple antibiotic ointment good for open wounds? ›

Both Neosporin and the generic triple antibiotic contain three antibiotics: Neomycin, Polymyxin B, and Bacitracin. These antibiotics are promoted for minor cuts and scrapes. Most people feel that triple antibiotic “prevents infection,” “helps wounds heal faster,” and “helps prevent scarring.” That is just not true!

Should you use peroxide on wounds? ›

"Hydrogen peroxide is actually detrimental to wound healing," says Dr. Yaakovian. "It prevents healing rather than promoting it." That's because its reactive power isn't specific to germs.

What are the 5 rules of wound care? ›

In this article, the authors offer five generalisable principles that colleagues providing community care can apply in order to achieve timely wound healing: (1) assessment and exclusion of disease processes; (2) wound cleansing; (3) timely dressing change; (4) appropriate (dressing choice; and (5) considered ...

Do wounds heal better in open air? ›

A: Airing out most wounds isn't beneficial because wounds need moisture to heal. Leaving a wound uncovered may dry out new surface cells, which can increase pain or slow the healing process. Most wound treatments or coverings promote a moist — but not overly wet — wound surface.

Should you sleep with a bandaid on? ›

Keep your wound covered with clean gauze or an adhesive bandage during waking hours. You can leave it uncovered while you sleep if it isn't oozing or painful. Don't soak your wound for long periods when bathing.

Does itching mean healing? ›

Itching is generally a sign of healing. Your nerves are stimulated by all the action at the wound site, and your brain interprets that stimulation as itchiness.

How do you treat an elderly wound? ›

Clean the wound itself as well as the surrounding area, and dab – try not to pull on the skin. Apply antibiotic ointment to the wound, such as Neosporin, Polysporin, or Bacitracin. Cover the wound with a sterile bandage. Repeat these steps once or twice a day until the wound has healed.

Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered? ›

A handful of studies have found that when wounds are kept moist and covered, blood vessels regenerate faster and the number of cells that cause inflammation drop more rapidly than they do in wounds allowed to air out. It is best to keep a wound moist and covered for at least five days.

Do wounds heal better covered or uncovered? ›

Once you stop the bleeding and clean the wound, you should apply a clean bandage. Here's why: Air dries out the wound and promotes cell death, not healing. Covering the wound maintains the natural moisture that helps keep cells alive.

Is it better to cover a wound or leave it open? ›

Leaving a wound uncovered helps it stay dry and helps it heal. If the wound isn't in an area that will get dirty or be rubbed by clothing, you don't have to cover it.

Should you put antibiotic ointment on an open wound? ›

Don't apply a topical antibiotic. Studies show that petroleum jelly is just as effective as an antibiotic ointment for non-infected wounds. Don't douse a minor wound with antiseptics like iodine or hydrogen peroxide. They're actually harmful to the skin and can delay healing.

Should you sleep with a bandaid on? ›

Keep your wound covered with clean gauze or an adhesive bandage during waking hours. You can leave it uncovered while you sleep if it isn't oozing or painful. Don't soak your wound for long periods when bathing.

How long does an open wound take to heal? ›

How long it takes: Usually between 4-24 days. You can help the healing process stay on track by keeping the new tissue on wounds clean and hydrated. Signs it's working: During this stage, the granulation tissue over your wound is typically pink or red and uneven in texture – and it usually doesn't bleed.

How do you clean an open wound? ›

rinse the wound under running tap water for 5 to 10 minutes. soak a gauze pad or cloth in saline solution or tap water, or use an alcohol-free wipe, and gently dab or wipe the skin with it – don't use antiseptic as this may damage the skin.

Does itching mean healing? ›

Itching is generally a sign of healing. Your nerves are stimulated by all the action at the wound site, and your brain interprets that stimulation as itchiness.

Do wounds heal faster dry or moist? ›

If the wound environment is dry, the cells will have to find moisture deep in the wound bed so that they can migrate. This slows down the healing process. In fact, studies show that moist wounds heal 50 % faster than dry wounds.

How long should you leave a bandage on a wound? ›

Leave the bandage in place and dry for 24 hours. When removing the bandage after 24 hours, and it feels like the bandage is sticking to your wound, pour water onto the bandage to get it wet and gently and slowly remove the bandage. If you rip the bandage off while it is stuck it can start bleeding.

How do you heal an open wound naturally? ›

The following are some alternative methods and remedies people can try to make wounds heal faster:
  1. Antibacterial ointment. A person can treat a wound with several over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial ointments, which can help prevent infections. ...
  2. Aloe vera. ...
  3. Honey. ...
  4. Turmeric paste. ...
  5. Garlic. ...
  6. Coconut oil.
26 Nov 2020

Should you clean wounds with hydrogen peroxide? ›

"Hydrogen peroxide is actually detrimental to wound healing," says Dr. Yaakovian. "It prevents healing rather than promoting it." That's because its reactive power isn't specific to germs.

What is the clear liquid oozing from wound? ›

If the drainage is thin and clear, it's serum, also known as serous fluid. This is typical when the wound is healing, but the inflammation around the injury is still high. A small amount of serous drainage is normal. Excessive serous fluid could be a sign of too much unhealthy bacteria on the surface of the wound.

Does Neosporin or Vaseline heal faster? ›

They gave small skin wounds to human participants and applied Vaseline or Neosporin. The people who applied Vaseline healed faster than those who applied Neosporin to their wounds. This suggests that Neosporin kills the bacteria and makes the wounds heal slower, Garza said.

Can I shower with an open wound? ›

Yes, you can have a bath or a shower. If your wound does not have a dressing in place when you go home, then you can have a bath or a shower, simply let water run over the wound. If your wound does have a dressing then you can still bathe or shower.

Is triple antibiotic ointment good for open wounds? ›

Both Neosporin and the generic triple antibiotic contain three antibiotics: Neomycin, Polymyxin B, and Bacitracin. These antibiotics are promoted for minor cuts and scrapes. Most people feel that triple antibiotic “prevents infection,” “helps wounds heal faster,” and “helps prevent scarring.” That is just not true!

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