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Chlorhexidine Bathing

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.


Chlorhexidine bathing

is done to prevent an infection. Chlorhexidine is a medicine that can kill bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other organisms. Chlorhexidine comes as a liquid or as cloths. The kind you use will depend on why you need chlorhexidine. You may need to bathe or shower with the liquid every day to prevent infection during a hospital stay. You may need to use it the night before or the day of surgery. You will be given specific instructions if you need to do chlorhexidine bathing at home before surgery.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You develop a rash after you use chlorhexidine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Why you may need chlorhexidine bathing:

  • Prevent infection during surgery
  • A central line being placed or the dressing changed
  • Infection prevention while you are in the hospital
  • A stay in a high-risk part of the hospital, such as a cancer unit
  • Protection from an infection by bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, such as MRSA

How chlorhexidine bathing is done:

Your healthcare provider will tell you when to do chlorhexidine bathing. Only use chlorhexidine on the skin below your neck, not on your face. Always put clean clothes on after you bathe, shower, or use the cloths. This will help prevent germs on used clothing from getting onto your skin. If you are having surgery, it is important to keep the area clean after you use chlorhexidine. Tell a healthcare provider if you need help keeping the area clean.

  • For the liquid, first shower with soap and water. This will help remove dirt and oil that can prevent chlorhexidine from working correctly. Be sure to clean between any skin folds you have. Germs can collect in skin folds and multiply quickly. Then wash with chlorhexidine. Let the liquid stay on your skin for at least 1 minute, and then rinse it off completely. Use a clean towel to dry off. Your skin may feel sticky after you finish. This is normal and will only last a short time.
  • For the cloths, make sure your skin is dry. Use 1 cloth for each body part. Examples of body parts are your arms, abdomen, leg and foot, back, groin, and buttocks. Do not rinse your skin after you use the cloths. Use a clean towel to dry your skin.

What else you need to know about chlorhexidine bathing:

  • Chlorhexidine can cause an allergic reaction. The risk is low, but the reaction can be serious. Tell a healthcare provider or seek immediate care if you develop a rash, hives, or trouble breathing after you use chlorhexidine.
  • Do not put lotion, cream, talc, or any other product on your skin without asking a healthcare provider. These products may interact with chlorhexidine.
  • Some conditions may prevent you from being able to use chlorhexidine. Examples are a past allergic reaction to chlorhexidine, or radiation treatment that day. If you have a sore or rash, you may use chlorhexidine if you avoid the sore or rash.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.