Gentian Violet use while Breastfeeding
Drugs containing Gentian Violet: Triple Dye, Kerr Triple Dye
Gentian Violet Levels and Effects while Breastfeeding
Summary of Use during Lactation
Gentian violet (crystal violet) was used in the past to treat oral and nipple thrush during breastfeeding. Gentian violet is potentially toxic to the mucous membranes, causing ulceration, and potentially tattooing the skin. It can also interact with DNA, is carcinogenic and mutagenic in rodents, and occasionally causes allergic sensitization, with cross reactions to other triphenylmethane dyes. Its use has been severely curtailed by authorities in England and Australia. It is also very messy, staining skin and clothing. A 2001 survey of the members of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) found that gentian violet is rarely (1 to 2% of respondents) used by breastfeeding experts for initial treatment of oral thrush and is very infrequently (3 to 4% of respondents) used for recurrent or persistent thrush. ABM guidelines for treating Candida infection of the nipples state that an aqueous solution of gentian violet of less than 0.5% can be used for no more than 7 days on the nipple. However, safer alternatives for treating thrush are available.
Effects in Breastfed Infants
Gentian violet has caused oral ulceration in breastfed infants treated with 1% or 2% solution applied to the mouth and tongue for thrush.
A 2-week-old exclusively breastfed infant was treated for oral thrush with aqueous 1% gentian violet solution twice daily for 1 day. The parents discontinued it because they thought it was causing airway discomfort. After 2 days, it was restarted at 4 times a day. Cough and difficulty feeding developed after 1 day and the infant was then admitted to the hospital, ultimately requiring intubation.
Effects on Lactation and Breastmilk
Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.
Alternate Drugs to Consider
1. Bjornberg A, Mobacken H. Necrotic skin reactions caused by 1 per cent gentian violet and brilliant green. Acta Derm Venereol. 1972;52:55-60. PMID: 4111108
2. Utter AR. Gentian violet treatment for thrush: can its use cause breastfeeding problems. J Hum Lact. 1990;6:178-80. Letter. PMID: 2271112
3. Utter AR. Gentian violet and thrush. J Hum Lact. 1992;8:6. Letter. PMID: 1558661
4. Baca D, Drexler C, Cullen E. Obstructive laryngotracheitis secondary to gentian violet exposure. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2001;40:233-5. PMID: 11336425
5. Rosenkranz HS, Carr HS. Possible hazard in use of gentian violet. Br Med J. 1971;3:702-3. Letter. PMID: 5569557
6. Bielicky T, Novak M. Contact-group sensitization to triphenylmethane dyes. Gentian violet, brilliant green, and malachite green. Arch Dermatol. 1969;100:540-3. PMID: 5350405
7. Phillips V. Is gentian violet safe? J Hum Lact. 1993;9:7-8. PMID: 8489730
8. Hoppe JE. Treatment of oropharyngeal candidiasis and candidal diaper dermatitis in neonates and infants: review and reappraisal. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1997;16:885-94. PMID: 9306485
9. Brent NB. Thrush in the breastfeeding dyad: results of a survey on diagnosis and treatment. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2001;40:503-6. PMID: 11583049
10. Berens P, Eglash A, Malloy M et al. ABM Clinical Protocol #26: Persistent pain with breastfeeding. Breastfeed Med. 2016;11:46-53. PMID: 26881962
11. Stoukides C. Topical medications and breastfeeding. J Hum Lact. 1993;9:185-6. PMID: 8260040
Gentian Violet Identification
CAS Registry Number
Anti-Infective Agents, Local
LactMed Record Number
Last Revision Date
Information presented in this database is not meant as a substitute for professional judgment. You should consult your healthcare provider for breastfeeding advice related to your particular situation. The U.S. government does not warrant or assume any liability or responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the information on this Site.
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- Drug class: topical anti-infectives