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epsom salt for infection?

Discussion in 'Allopathic' started by fun8stuff, 05.06.06.

  1. fun8stuff

    fun8stuff *hiding from patients*

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    when i was a kid i was told that soaking an infected cut in a epsom salt/water solution would help draw out the infection. now, i can't seem to find much evidence for this. does anybody know if this is true?
  2. sdn1977

    sdn1977 Senior Member

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    OK - you asked...so...you'll get more info than you ever wanted!!! I'm an "old" pharmacist, so I'll give you some history. Magnesium Sulfate (epsom salt) was first obtained from a spring at Epsom, which was an English spa many years ago.

    It is most often used as a saline cathartic (citrate of magnesia) for bowel preps.

    As a cold compress, or as a warm soak, it has been used as a treatment for various infectious skin diseases.

    It acts as a dehydrating agent, either in the bowel or on the skin, by drawing fluids out from the body.

    It is neither antimicrobial nor is it an antiseptic. Depending upon its concentration, it is soothing and drying agent. If there is an active infection...it has no purpose, but if there is not...it may soothe feet, etc...
  3. grandeelmd

    grandeelmd Junior Member

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    I've seen it used (and used it myself) for pre-treatment of ingrown nails, especially toenails. It dehydrates and softens the skin, which moves it further from the nail and makes it easier to dig the nail out from the skin. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in theory you should get the same effect from table salt in warm water, no?
  4. maharishi3383

    maharishi3383 Junior Member

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    I disagree that it's not antimicrobial. Dehydrating bacterial cells will kill some strains. Obviously its not systemic, and isn't effective on all strains but it is by definition anitmicrobial. As in kills bacteria. But for that fact, water also antimicrobial so thats not saying much.
  5. skypilot

    skypilot 2K Member

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    It worked when I had an infected toenail.
    Maybe its a function of allowing more air to get to the anaerobic bacteria by opening up the infection.
  6. OSUdoc08

    OSUdoc08 Removed

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    Old Wives' Tale.

    Try a topical antibiotic.
  7. MissMuffet

    MissMuffet no harm

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    Actually, it isn't just a wives' tale. It is useful in many types of wound-healing. It is cleansing, reduces inflammation, and salt is somewhat bactericidal (and it kills kmolds and fungi, I think... ) [in the sense of its being a hostile environment]

    Neosporin is great too, but for different reasons. And you need to be careful because using iit can trigger a hypersensitivity to it.

    I'll look it up in a bit - being summoned atm...
  8. OSUdoc08

    OSUdoc08 Removed

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    I'm sorry, but to kill bacteria/fungus, you'll need an antibacterial/antifungal like Neosporin or Bacitracin. Not salt.

    If you want to reduce inflammation, take an NSAID.
  9. MissMuffet

    MissMuffet no harm

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    First, I apologize for such a scattered post. I got too distracted to check it for clarity. :oops:

    Well, I sure wouldn't depend on salt to kill bacteria or fungus, either. But that doesn't mean that the healing qualities of a warm salt water soak is mere wives' tale. (Not that I'm a natural remedy type, by the way.)

    For closed swellings the osmotic features alone are beneficial. For wounds, the flushing action, heat, and salinity inhibit proliferation of bacteria. It reduces inflammation as well as helps debride and oxidize wounds. Especially those healing by secondary intention.

    As for taking an NSAID and/or abx, that's great, but have their limits - you don't want to overuse them, and even with them, wounds benefit from localized therapy. And as for neosporin, aside from the sensitization, there are times you don't want to use ointments for obvious reasons.

    Think episiotomies, hand, and foot wounds. Sitz baths and foot soaks with salts added are more effective than warm water alone. And when dressing and cleansing other wounds, saline (or boiled salt-water) compresses and even packing is recommended by wound care specialists. As are sitz baths with epsom salts. I don't think they'd rx them if it were mere wives' tale.
  10. OSUdoc08

    OSUdoc08 Removed

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    I don't think it's possible to "overuse" topical antibiotics on lacerations.

    Salt baths and soaks are good for comfort, but not good for treatment.
  11. sdn1977

    sdn1977 Senior Member

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    Sorry - I was using those terms in the pharmceutical sense. An antimicrobial requires several specific tests as defined by the USP to demonstrate microbicidal activity. An antiseptic is an agent used as an inhibitory agent, usually as a wet dressing, ointment or powder which involves prolonged contact with the body - does not conform to specific USP tests defining it as an antimicrobial.

    So...yes, if by dehydrating the cells, the product may inhibit growth to the extent the body can rid the organisms. However, strictly - it is not an antimicrobial.

    Semantics again.....an antimicrobial agent (Neosporin) will not kill fungal infections - for that you need an antifungal (chlotrimazole, etc...). They are not interchangeable.

    Don't rely on any of these though for wounds in patients who have comorbid diseases like diabetes - those infections need prompt treatment by professional people to decrease morbidity.
  12. MissMuffet

    MissMuffet no harm

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    You think wrong. Sensitization due to "over-use" is well documented. Is it fine for a laceration here and there? Sure. But like I said, be careful. (hint: it's the neomycin in it. They even developed neomycin-free topical abx for this very reason. SDN would know more about it than I - ask her. I believe the pharmacological association even recommends pharmacists to use caution in recommending it.)

    :rolleyes:
  13. Pythagoras

    Pythagoras Senior Member

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    Why do I feel like this post should be in the osteopathic medicine forum.
  14. skypilot

    skypilot 2K Member

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    There are surgical approaches to some infections that don't require antibiotics.
  15. OSUdoc08

    OSUdoc08 Removed

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    Give an example of a surgical approach to treat an infected laceration where you would neither use antibiotics as a treatment or as prophylaxis......
  16. Debridement

    Debridement Member

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    There are many. I&D of any abscess in a patient without evidence of sepsis. Peri-rectal abscess drainage, etc.
  17. OSUdoc08

    OSUdoc08 Removed

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    Perhaps. Unfortunately, we are talking about a laceration and not an abscess.
  18. toofache32

    toofache32

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    Incision & drainage of a well-localized abscess in the mouth does not always require antibiotics. I drain pus all the time in the mouth and don't always put them on antibiotics. The excellent blood supply to the face lets us do this. All bets are off in the setting of immunocomprised patients, diabetics, cellulitis, systemic manifestations (fever, sepsis), history of endocarditis/artificial joints, etc. Of course there are reasons to use antibiotics, but simple pus that has already had THE treatment (cold steel) does not empirically require antibiotics.
  19. Jalopycat

    Jalopycat

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    You asked for a surgical approach and he gave you one. ;)

    On a side note, most good ER docs I know don't use neosporin because of the neomycin(someone mentioned that earlier), instead they use bacitracin.

    Funny someone mentioned epsom salt. To my mom, that's a cure-all for everything!
  20. MissMuffet

    MissMuffet no harm

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    Only since you edited your post after he answered it, as with the ones you made to me.

    (As with the claims you made to the much-less tolerant residents in the No ER/SICU/MICU experience thread a couple days ago. Having seen that, I was careful to include your quotes in my replies.)
  21. OSUdoc08

    OSUdoc08 Removed

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    I edited the post not because I was changing my question, but because people obviously misunderstood what I said and/or took it out of context. This is a common thing you will find on these forums.

    How's the "Old Wives'" business going?
  22. MissMuffet

    MissMuffet no harm

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    If the rest of us were as stupid as you seem to think we are, I might bother pointing out the obvious weakness of that excuse. Since they can see all of your edits here and in the other thread, it's unnecessary.
  23. anon-y-mouse

    anon-y-mouse Senior Member

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    What's also common is people not standing by what they say, and people who have a hard time admitting that a) they are wrong or b) there was some sort of miscommunication. Your cop-out is pretty transparent.
  24. OSUdoc08

    OSUdoc08 Removed

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    This happens quite often. It's very unfortunate that people often take things out of context, take things too literally, or take things too seriously. This is of course the nature of the beast, since tone of voice and facial expression are not apparent on these forums.
  25. anon-y-mouse

    anon-y-mouse Senior Member

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    Your cya attitude will prepare you for an excellent career in medicine. :thumbup:
  26. OSUdoc08

    OSUdoc08 Removed

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    Yes, especially since discussions on internet forums in my free time at home is related in any way whatsoever to said career.
  27. anon-y-mouse

    anon-y-mouse Senior Member

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    Other than the fact that said forum is directly *about* your career...
  28. OSUdoc08

    OSUdoc08 Removed

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    Nope. This forum is about medical school.

    The "Emergency Medicine" forum is about my career.
  29. anon-y-mouse

    anon-y-mouse Senior Member

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    1) You're playing a game of semantics.
    2) It seems you were also disingenuous in that other SUB forum, as was pointed out earlier.
  30. OSUdoc08

    OSUdoc08 Removed

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    1) And what are you doing right now?

    2) Who cares?

    3) Why the constant personal attacks?
  31. toofache32

    toofache32

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    I corrected your post for you.
  32. aflo

    aflo Member

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    In the Derm practice where I work, following a majority of surgical procedures, our specific instructions to patients are to use epsom salt compresses three times daily followed by vaseline. The patients who follow these directions usually heal quickly and do pretty well in long term. We never recommend using Neosporin because of the Neomycin as many people are allergic or can develop and allergy to it. In the past, we used polysporin or bacitracin, but this was stopped when a wave of patients started presenting with post op reactions to the ointments.

    As for normal cuts and scratchs it could not hurt but an antibiotic ointment might not be a bad idea.
  33. Jasa

    Jasa

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    Okay, just have to add my two bits worth..........epsom salt is not a wives tale. I've had
    Dr.'s tell me to use it on infections. Had a cat bit on my finger, red line was going up my hand, of course the treated it with antibiotic, but they also told me to soak it in epsom salt. Had a staff infection in my finger, again we packed it with a epsom salt bandage. Also with my horses, if a stone worked it way up in the hoof, the vet said to soak it in epsom salt. It had drawing properties that draw the infection to the surface. I keep it on hand in the house always.
  34. DermViser

    DermViser

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    I realize you're new, but the post you responded to was from 8 years ago, and all the posts have likely moved on and likely won't respond back. Glad the Epsom salt worked though.

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