Surgical prep is the process of cleansing the skin deeply to eliminate risks of infection from bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes. It is an important step before any invasive procedure, like inserting a catheter, changing an ostomy pouch or dressing a wound. When prepping skin for these procedures, it’s best to wear protective gloves to keep from cross contaminating the area.
Alcohol: Solutions of 70% alcohol in sterile water are highly effective at killing bacteria, viruses and fungi. The water is key in breaking down protein in microorganisms, and alcohol concentrations above 90% are not as effective as topical antiseptic treatments. Find 70% alcohol surgical prep solution in pads, swabs, swab sticks and liquid, also known as rubbing alcohol. Side effects may include a stinging or burning sensation and skin dryness.
Iodine: Povidone iodine is a combination of the element iodine and a common pharmaceutical polymer. It is effective against most bacteria, viruses and fungi. Some people may be allergic to iodine, and those with certain thyroid conditions should not use it. Find povidone iodine in liquid solutions, prep pads, swab sticks and ointments.
Sodium Chloride: Also known as saline, sodium chloride is salt dissolved in sterile water. This nontoxic solution is commonly used to clean open wounds because it won’t disturb delicate healing tissues or negatively affect moisture levels in the wound bed. It is also used to flush IVs and catheter tubes after administering medications. Find 0.9% saline solution in single-use and bulk size containers.
Other Skin Prep Options: Hydrogen peroxide is another common antiseptic that kills yeasts, fungi, bacteria and viruses in a 3% liquid solution. Chloroxylenol is an effective surgical skin prep for those with allergies to both iodine and chlorhexidine, and it is mild enough for use around mucous membranes, eyes and ears. Polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB) is another broad-spectrum antimicrobial available in impregnated sponges. Other surgical prep supplies include sting-free skin-protective swabs that form a waterproof, breathable barrier on damaged or intact skin to shield it from incontinence, wound drainage or adhesive trauma.