Ethanol is a commonly used medical alcohol
|Topical, intravenous, by mouth|
|Drug class||Antiseptics, disinfectants, antidotes|
Alcohols, in various forms, are used within medicine as an antiseptic, disinfectant, and antidote. Applied to the skin it is used to disinfect skin before a needle stick and before surgery. It may be used both to disinfect the skin of the patient and the hands of the healthcare providers. It can also be used to clean other areas. It is used in mouthwashes. Taken by mouth or injected into a vein it is used to treat methanol or ethylene glycol toxicity when fomepizole is not available. Aside from these uses, alcohol has no other well-accepted medical uses, the therapeutic index of ethanol is only 10:1.
Side effects include skin irritation. Care should be taken with electrocautery as ethanol is flammable. Types of alcohol used include ethanol, denatured ethanol, 1-propanol, and isopropyl alcohol. It is effective against a range of microorganisms though does not inactivate spores. Concentrations of 60 to 90% work best.
Alcohol has been used as an antiseptic as early as 1363 with evidence to support its use becoming available in the late 1800s. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. The wholesale cost in the developing world is about US$1.80–9.50 per litre of 70% denatured ethanol. In the United Kingdom it costs the NHS about 3.90 GBP per liter of 99% denatured alcohol. Commercial formulations of alcohol based hand rub or with other agents such as chlorhexidine are available.
Ethanol, when used for toxicity, competes with other alcohols for the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme, lessening metabolism into toxic aldehyde and carboxylic acid derivatives, and reducing more serious toxic effect of the glycols to crystallize in the kidneys.
Alcohol has been used as an antiseptic as early as 1363 with evidence to support its use becoming available in the late 1800s. Since antiquity, prior to the development of modern agents, alcohol was used as a general anesthetic.
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