Phisohex side effects


Louisiana Center for Community Preparedness

A prescription-only antibacterial cleanser sold by sanofi-aventis, pHisoHex contains the detergent hexachlorophene. Members of a surgical team may use pHisoHex to scrub before conducting operations, and patients may have surgical sites cleaned with pHisoHex.

Doctors may also prescribe pHisoHex to patients needing to prevent the spread of bacterial skin infections. The cleanser causes few side effects when applied correctly, but it can produce fatal poisons when accidentally ingested.

Side Effects

Using pHisoHex can make treated skin sensitive to sun light. People can also develop a rash, red skin, dry skin and scaly skin when they use pHisoHex. These dermal reactions occur most often in people who have generally sensitive skin and in people who scrub their skin vigorously while using pHisoHex.

Warnings and Precautions

People must keep pHisoHex out of their eyes and mouths, as the cleanser can cause intense irritation and poisoning. In some patients, particularly infants, pHisoHex gets absorbed rapidly through the skin. When this rapid absorption occurs, patients may experience involuntary muscle contractions, mental irritability and rash (i.e., dermatitis).


Never apply pHisoHex to burnt skin, cracked skin, open wounds or skin that has broken out into a rash. Nor should you use pHisoHex under a tight bandage or as a total body wash, a topical lotion or an antibacterial coating for a tampon.

Accidental Ingestion/Poisoning

Several people have died after swallowing pHisoHex. Toxic reactions to the cleanser include vomiting, diarrhoea, shock and convulsions. People who have accidentally ingested pHisoHex have also experienced stomach cramps, dehydration and complete loss of appetite. Treating pHisoHex poisoning requires pumping the patient's stomach or inducing vomiting as soon as possible, the administration of olive oil to slow dissolution of pHisoHex in the stomach and the administration of large amounts of fluids to encourage removal of the cleanser. A patient poisoned by pHisoHex may also need intravenous electrolytes.

  • Several people have died after swallowing pHisoHex.
  • A patient poisoned by pHisoHex may also need intravenous electrolytes.

Safe Use

Anyone using pHisoHex must wet his hands and work the cleanser into a lather before scrubbing the site to be cleaned. The user then must thoroughly rinse off the pHisoHex, making particularly sure to remove all the pHisoHex from his hands.