Neomycin and bacitracin are both antibiotic medications that are usually applied to the skin to treat bacterial infections. While the most common use of these drugs is topical application, neomycin may also be available in a pill, which is taken to reduce the possibility of an infection during a surgery. Bacitracin ointment may also be prescribed by an optometrist for application to the eye to treat infections in that area. Before using neomycin and bacitracin, patients should discuss the proper application with a doctor or pharmacist.
When it is applied topically, neomycin is typically used three to four times daily. Patients should cleanse the affected area of skin and apply a small amount of the ointment. The smallest amount possible should be used, because if too much of the medicine is absorbed into the body, it may affect the hearing and cause kidney problems. Patients taking neomycin orally in a pill or liquid form should ingest each dose with a full glass of water.
Bacitracin should be applied in the same manner as topical neomycin, but it is typically used one to three times daily. Patients may also cover the affected skin with a sterile bandage following each dose. When the ointment is used for the eye, the patient should pull the lower eyelid down gently with a finger and squeeze the prescribed amount into this area. The eyes should be closed for two minutes to allow the drug to distribute evenly, and patients should wash their hands well before and after each application.
Neomycin and bacitracin may cause some side effects, which should be reported to the prescribing physician if they become severe. Oral neomycin may sometimes cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Patients using bacitracin for an eye infection may experience temporary blurred vision.
More serious side effects should be reported to the doctor immediately, such as decreased urination, a rash, and irritation or burning of the skin following a dose of neomycin. Those taking this drug orally may experience dizziness, severe diarrhea, and hearing problems. Bacitracin applied to the skin may rarely result in a secondary skin infection, and the ointment applied to the eye may rarely cause worsening eye pain, swelling of the eyelids, and unusual changes in eyesight.
Before using neomycin and bacitracin to treat a bacterial infection, patients should disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss the risks with their doctors. Neomycin may be contraindicated for use by those with a bowel disease, kidney disease, or a neuromuscular disorder. Patients should discuss whether they use any medications that may affect the kidneys.