Hives, facial swelling and breathing difficulties, even anaphylactic shock... The medicines safety agency (ANSM) has observed a "constant increase in the number of reports of serious allergic reactions associated with chlorhexidine", a bactericidal antiseptic, and urged Thursday not to use it as the first disinfectant at home.
“Many people in France are exposed to it, which increases the risk of sensitization and, consequently, the increase in the risk of immediate and serious allergic reaction,” underlines the ANSM. Chlorhexidine is in fact used in the composition of many products. It is used as an antiseptic, mainly for skin use or in the form of mouthwashes, oral spray solutions, lozenges, eye drops or urological gels. It is also present in hygiene products (certain toothpastes for example) and in cosmetics (where it is used as a preservative). Its presence must be indicated on the packaging or instructions for use of the products.
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The ANSM specifies that “such reactions, which however remain rare, generally occur within an hour following the use of chlorhexidine”. “If you have one or more symptoms suggestive of a serious allergy, stop using chlorhexidine and get medical help immediately by calling 15,” specifies the health agency. In order to reduce the risk, the ANSM advises not to use it as a disinfectant at home. “Washing with clean water and soap is the first step to clean a superficial wound,” she adds.
If an allergy to chlorhexidine has already occurred, you must notify your nurse, pharmacist, doctor, surgeon or dentist. Health professionals are invited to offer alternatives to their patients (povidone-iodine - better known as Betadine -, chlorinated derivatives, alcohol modified depending on the type of care provided). Furthermore, "in the event of an allergic reaction following a surgical procedure", it is recommended that medical teams "include chlorhexidine in the battery of tests carried out to identify the cause of the patient's allergy".