Lidocaine ointment is a topical preparation of lidocaine, a local anesthetic that can be absorbed through the skin. Ointments containing low concentrations of lidocaine are available in many drugstores over the counter, while stronger preparations can be prescribed for the treatment of specific conditions. Lidocaine itself is also available in the format of an injectable medication used for minor surgical procedures and dental surgery. Injectable lidocaine is usually only available to medical practitioners because it can be dangerous.
This drug works by blocking the signals sent by nerves to tell the brain that the body is experiencing pain. Lidocaine ointment is recommended for situations like sunburns, rashes, and other lesions that cause pain, irritation, or itching. While pain signals can be very valuable for the brain to receive when an injury is initially sustained, prolonged pain and irritation are not enjoyable and topical lidocaine can be used to make people more comfortable.
Some lidocaine ointment products are designed for specific uses like treating sunburns. The ointment can be blended with other ingredients that are designed to moisturize and protect the skin, as seen in products that mix lidocaine and aloe vera for burns. Lidocaine can also be mixed with antibiotics for the treatment of cuts and scrapes.
Ointments available over the counter are often sufficient to manage minor injuries. It is important to wash the skin with mild soap and pat it dry before applying lidocaine ointment, and to monitor the progress of healing. If the injury gets worse or does not appear to be improving after several days, a doctor should be consulted for treatment recommendations.
Prescription lidocaine ointment is stronger and may be prescribed for pain management and certain other applications by a doctor. It is important to use it as directed and to be aware that because it is stronger, it will behave differently than ointments purchased over the counter. Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs should be stored out of reach of young children and pets in order to avoid accidental ingestion.
Like other medications, lidocaine ointment can conflict with other drugs a patient is taking, including over-the-counter medications. A pharmacist or doctor should be consulted before applying lidocaine to confirm that a patient has no medications or conditions that could interact badly with lidocaine. Patients should also be aware that some people are not sensitive to lidocaine and in these individuals, the drug does not have a strong anesthetic effect.