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Say No to Neosporin


Say "NO" to Neosporin for treating

lymphedema related infections.

Many of us think a well-equipped first aid kit should include Neosporin – and that Neosporin should be applied generously if an injury breaks the skin in an area affected by lymphedema. New evidence indicates that Neosporin may not be appropriate for everyone and using only a thin layer protects against infection and reduces the risk of becoming allergic.


Neosporin is a first-aid ointment available without a prescription that contains three antibiotic ingredients in a petroleum jelly base.

First aid ointment can be used to treat minor skin injuries. If you have deep cuts, puncture wounds, animal bites, serious burns, or injuries affecting large areas of skin, call your doctor or get emergency medical help. Neosporin may be recommended for home care after minor surgery but this is becoming less common.

Brand Names include: Medi-Quik, Mycitracin, Neosporin, and Triple Antibiotic.

Generic Names are: bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin B (topical).

The active ingredients in Neosporin are three antibiotics that fight different types of infection: neomycin, polysporin, and bacitracin.


Any of the antibiotics in Neosporin can cause an allergic reaction. Neomycin allergy is the most common and it appears that more people are becoming sensitive to Neomycin.

Most allergic reactions affect only area treated with Neosporin (allergic contact dermatitis). More severe reactions with hives, difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs, are rare and potentially dangerous, seek medical treatment immediately.

Allergic reactions can interfere with wound healing. Redness and discharge from an allergic reaction may be mistaken for signs of infection.

The first signs of an allergic reaction may be redness, skin pain, irritation, burning, swelling, itching, rash, or hives. The skin may weep or develop blisters. The onset of symptoms of neomycin allergy may be delayed up to a week from the first use.

Allergic reactions to ointments are more common in those who are over 70. Risk of neomycin allergy is greater in skin with poor circulation (due to lymphedema or stasis dermatitis).

If an area that should be healing is getting worse, despite diligent applications of Neosporin, there is a problem. Stop using Neosporin and check with your doctor if you have a minor skin injury and your symptoms do not go away within one week.


If you have an allergic reaction, contact your medical care provider. Frequently the problem will resolve quickly if Neosporin is discontinued.


  • YES! Neosporin is effective at speeding healing, reducing infection rates, and minimizing scarring, if you are not allergic. Apply a small amount to the injured skin; a thin layer is all that is needed.
  • NO! Not if you know you are allergic to Neosporin or related antibiotics (ask your doctor).

Risk of allergic reaction increases with repeated exposure. If you have used Neosporin many times you are more likely to develop an allergy.


Ask your medical care provider or pharmacist to recommend a replacement based on your drug sensitivities. Alternatives include:

  • If you are allergic to Neomycin: Bacitracin and Polymyxin combination (Duospore, Polysporin, or Double Antibiotic), or Bacitracin alone.
  • Non-antibiotic creams: white petrolatum, Aquaphor Healing Ointment, etc.



© LymphNotes.com 2012. This information does not replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.

Got a question or comment? Post in the 'How Lymphedema is Treated' forum.
Category: How Lymphedema is Treated Updated: 2012-10-24


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