Today, we take for granted the safety and sterility of medical treatment. But that is largely down to the advent of antiseptics. In the 1860s, going to the hospital with a serious injury was just as dangerous as staying at home. In fact, one prominent London surgeon declared ‘A man laid on the operating table in one or our surgical hospitals is exposed to more chance of death than was the English soldier on the field of Waterloo.’ As recently as our great grandparents’ lifetime, it was a gamble as to whether you would pick up sepsis or gangrene from even minor surgeries. No one knew what caused these deaths; you just had to roll the dice. That’s pretty haunting.
Enter Joseph Lister.
As an experienced surgeon, he began looking for ways to construct a shield around the wound which was impenetrable for the masses of germs looking to get involved. Who knows how many millions upon millions of lives Lister’s work has saved in the 180 years since? All we can know for sure is that we are very lucky for these breakthroughs, because your medicine cabinet contains some potentially life saving medicines as a result. One of these is Betadine: an antiseptic that comes in a little brown bottle. It was used by NASA to wipe down the returning Apollo 11 in case any space nasties had hitched a ride back down to earth from the moon. And one of my life rules is that if it is good enough for NASA, it is good enough for me.
Here is how it works. Betadine is actually made of iodine, a chemical which infiltrates the cell wall of the bacteria and destroys it from the outside. It acts like a heat seeking missile for germs while leaving the healthy cells untouched. Believe it or not, it doesn’t even sting! Here is when and how you should be using Betadine antiseptic.
- Abrasions and cuts to the skin
This may come as a shock to you, but the outer layer of your skin is teeming with bacteria – yes, even if you’re thorough in the shower. It is perfectly natural, and the skin is doing its job by keeping them away from your essential organs. It does become a problem however when the skin is cut or suffers an abrasion. All of a sudden, the bacteria has found its way in! Think of it as a crack in a fortress wall. Left untreated, the bacteria will penetrate your outer defences and begin wreaking havoc. Fortunately, Betadine antiseptic kills these germs on the spot which allows your body’s natural defence systems to begin healing the wound. If I may stretch my fortress metaphor slightly, consider Betadine antiseptic as the cavalry that arrives a la Gandalf in The Two Towers.
- Sore throats
- Cold sores
If sore throats are the most painful, cold sores might be the most embarrassing. Even though they are an unavoidable part of life, my customers tend to shuffle in with a special type of shame (and a well-positioned scarf) when sporting a cold sore. The good news? Betadine ointment is an effective remedy against this most embarrassing of afflictions. A cold sore is merely an infection that from time to time will emerge around the lips (particularly in cold and windy weather). Betadine ointment has been specially modified to combat the herpes infection and can reduce the usual 7-10 days if left untreated. Yes, sadly, it is part of the herpes family. But with Betadine ointment, you can cut that right down.
You are better off with Betadine. It is in many ways a little miracle in a brown bottle. Here are a few FAQs I get when I recommend Betadine to my customers.
- Come on Floyd, surely water does the same thing?
No. Water is like putting up a tarpaulin over a crack in the fortress walls. By no means useless, and is a good first port of call. But it really only gets rid of physical debris that is stuck in the wound. It doesn’t do anything to get rid of germs. And if the water you are using isn’t clean, it can actually be a wonderful way to introduce germs into the wound. Trust me, you’re better off with Betadine.
- I don’t wanna overdo this… Can I develop an immunity so it becomes less effective?
No. It isn’t an antibiotic. It will continue to do the job even if you applied it every day for the rest of your life.
- Is the brown colouring anything to worry about?
No. That’s just that natural colour of iodine. It doesn’t stain your skin, or clothes. The temporary brown stain across your skin is actually a really helpful way for health professionals to know that the area has been properly cleaned.
- Why Betadine? Why not some other brand?
I’ve always used Betadine, and I can attest to its effectiveness and the fact that it is gentle on the skin. Other brands might do the same thing, but they can be more abrasive on the skin in the days after.
Yours in health,