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Chlorhexidine is an anti-infective and antiseptic medication.

Pronunciation: klor-HEX-i-deen

What are chlorhexidine’s uses?

Chlorhexidine is used as a mouthwash to treat oral conditions, such as gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissue), mucositis (inflammation of the mucous membranes) and periodontitis (serious gum infection).

Its other benefit is in topical form (as a cream or liquid) to disinfect wounds, to clean the skin before an injection or before surgery.

What dosage should you take?

The typical dose varies, depending on the purpose for which the chlorhexidine is being used.

For oral conditions in adults:

  • For gingivitis and mucositis: 15ml twice daily after brushing (the mouthwash should be retained for 30 seconds before being expectorated)

For oral conditions in children:
While the efficacy and safety of chlorhexidine has not been established in patients 18 years of age and younger, it may be prescribed in certain cases. Consult with your doctor or Clicks pharmacist regarding the correct dosage.

For skin conditions in adults and children:
A hand rinse or wipe, solution or swabstick applicator may be prescribed. Dosages will vary depending on the condition being treated, the strength of the dose and the numbers of applications required per day. Strictly follow doctor’s instructions on usage.

What special precautions should you take?

  • Inform your doctor or Clicks pharmacist if you are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or are breastfeeding before taking this medication.
  • Do not breastfeed if you are using the topical medication in the breast area.
  • Extreme caution should be taken when applying this topical medication on infants, especially younger than 2 months, as it may result in severe irritation and chemical burns.
  • Be sure to read all instructions on usage, and inform your Clicks pharmacist and doctor about any other medications you’re on.
  • Avoid contact with eyes and ears.
  • Wounds should be cleaned thoroughly before the topical medication is applied as it becomes inactivated by, for example, debris and blood.
  • Topical medication should not be used on deep cuts or open skin wounds, be taken internally, or applied to the nose, vagina or anus.
  • Chlorhexidine oral medication should not be mixed with any other substances and should be expectorated after usage, that is, not swallowed.
  • Wait for 30 minutes before eating, drinking or brushing your teeth after taking chlorhexidine oral medication.
  • Chlorhexidine should be used with caution if you suffer from any food or animal allergies, as well as allergies to dyes.

What drug interactions could you experience?

Drug interactions with chlorhexidine topical or mouthwash are unlikely, however you should always inform your doctor or Clicks pharmacist what prescription and non-prescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal products you are taking or planning to take.

What are chlorhexidine’s side effects?

Mouthwash side effects include:

  • Unpleasant taste and taste disturbances
  • Brown staining on teeth (reversible)
  • Irritation in the mucous membrane
  • Dry mouth

Topical medication side effects include:

  • Skin irritations, including burning, redness, blistering or peeling

An allergic reaction can result in difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, hands and feet – medical attention must be sought immediately.

This is not a complete list of side effects. It’s essential that you call your doctor should you notice any severe or odd side effects.

What are the overdose symptoms?

Call a doctor or an ambulance immediately if you notice the following overdose symptoms following use of the mouthwash:

  • Nausea, stomach pain and/or an inebriated feeling (overdose would only occur after ingestion of mouthwash)

Topical medication side effects include:

  • Swelling
  • Severe skin rash
  • Severe itching and/or burning
  • Severe blistering or peeling
The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in April 2015