Chlorhexidine is a chemical antiseptic and disinfectant that is known to cause allergic reactions. Although reactions are uncommon, some of them have been severe. This article is aimed at providing information to help people who are allergic, or think they may be allergic, to this chemical. If you are in that category it is important to see your GP, who should refer you to an allergy specialist for testing and medical advice.
A key message is: Read the labels of any products appearing in the list below, or any others that you think could contain this chemical. Examples of products that could contain chlorhexidine include:
- Antiseptic mouthwashes
- Antiseptic sore throat lozenges and sprays
- Antiseptic toothpastes
- Topical eczema creams, washes and emollients
- Acne creams
- Antiseptic powders such as athletes foot powder
- Antiseptic creams
- Antiseptic wipes
- Antiseptic dressings
- Skin washes and cleansers
- Topical disinfectants
- The antiseptic wipes used by staff at blood donor centres
- Deodorants and antiperspirants
- Hair conditioners
- Bladder washouts
- Dental implants
- Eye drops
- Contact lens solutions
- Multi-use creams and sprays, such as nasal sprays may include chlorhexidine as a preservative
- Some household products such as detergent and disinfectant solutions
Apart from the single word chlorhexidine, other chemical names to look out for include chlorhexidine dihydrochloride, chlorhexidine diacetate, chlorhexidine gluconate, and chlorhexidine digluconate
Chlorhexidine can be used during medical procedures. If you are allergic to chlorhexidine, we would strongly advise you to declare your allergy if you go into hospital or have dental treatment. Request that any known allergies are recorded in your patient notes and mention your allergy every time you have treatment. Before having blood tests, check to find out if the wipes they use contain chlorhexidine.
We advise you to wear a medical alert bracelet so that ambulance staff, A&E staff, and other medical personnel are aware of your allergy.
If your allergy is severe, we would encourage you to read our fact sheet on anaphylaxis, which is the name for an extreme allergic reaction.
The content of this fact sheet has been Peer Reviewed by Dr Anna Murphy, Consultant Respiratory Pharmacist, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Glenfield Hospital, Leicester. Dr Murphy has stated that she has no conflicts of interest with regard to her role as reviewer.
All the information we produce is evidence based or follows expert opinion and is checked by our clinical and research reviewers. If you wish to know the sources we used in producing any of our information products, please let us know, and we will gladly supply details.
Publication date: Feb 2019
Review date: Feb 2022