Side Effects of Hibiclens Chlorhexidine Gluconate

Updated April 17, 2017

Hibiclens is an over-the-counter brand name for the antiseptic and bacteriostatic chemical called chlorhexidine gluconate. It is a skin cleanser and bactericidal that destroys both the Gram-positive and the Gram-negative bacteria. Hibiclens can kill the bacteria by attaching itself to the surface of the microbial cell and then destroying the cell membrane. Generally marketed as a skin cleanser, it is mainly used as a hand antiseptic and for washing wounds. As with all drugs, Hibiclens also has certain side effects.

Effect on Pregnant Women

Application of Hibiclens should be limited only to wounds involving damage of superficial layers of skin. Pregnant women or lactating mothers, however, should always consult a doctor before using this medicine. Although there are no reports to prove the presence of chlorhexidine in lactating milk, it is still advisable to wash the breasts thoroughly before nursing, especially if the drug has been used on the breasts for cleansing the skin.

Hypersensitivity and Allergic Reactions

Hibiclens chlorhexidine gluconate can be quite harmful in higher concentrations as it can pose serious allergic reactions and skin irritation. It can be life threatening and should be avoided, or at least carefully administered by people who have a high sensitivity to this drug. An article published in suggests that “It is for external use only, and should not be placed in the eyes, ears or mouth. It should only be used on wounds involving superficial layers of the skin.” Allergic symptoms can occur if the drug comes in contact with the mucous membrane of any part of the body (that is, membranes of the anus, genitals or mouth). Hibiclens can also cause blistering, burning, skin rashes, itchiness, peeling and other signs of irritation such as redness or swelling of the skin, mouth, tongue, face and lips, hives and tightness of chest.

Ocular Effects

Hibiclens should always be kept away from eyes (as it can cause corneal damage). Accidental exposure of the chlorhexidine cleanser to eyes during the pre-preparation of facial surgery can sometimes result in severe eye pain, inflammation of the conjunctiva and swelling of the epithelium, keratitis, corneal epithelial cell loss and chronic corneal ulcers.

Effects on Stomach and Nervous System

Gastrointestinal side effects have been associated with the use of Hibiclens chlorhexidine cleansers, including acute cases of gastritis (i.e. inflammation especially of the mucous membrane of the stomach) and colitis (i.e. inflammation of the colon). Hibiclens chlorhexidine should strictly be used externally in case of ear and can lead to deafness. Associated side effects of the drug may also include headache.

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About the Author

Deyanda Flint has been writing professionally since 2001. Her articles have appeared in “Spigot Science Magazine”. She holds a Master of Arts degree in creative writing from Georgia State University.