Povidone iodine is an antiseptic product used for surface abrasions and skin disinfection. Developed in the 1960s, this product is usually available at pharmacies and through medical supply catalogs, and it comes in a number of forms for convenience. It is a preferred format for iodine antiseptics because it is fully soluble in water, very effective, and can be used in highly flexible applications. Other antiseptics are also in use for skin and may be preferred for certain procedures or on patients who have allergies to iodine.
This product contains a mixture of polyvinylpyrrolidone, shortened to povidone or PVP, and iodine. The solution can contain varying percentages of iodine, depending on the formulation, and may be blended with sterile water or other fluids like glycerin as needed. Some people may refer to this product as PVP-I for polyvinylpyrrolidone-iodine. It has a reddish to brown color and can stain skin and clothing.
Some companies manufacture dry preparations of this compound for people to mix in solution as it is required. Packaged bottles of povidone iodine are also available. Prepackaged swabs, bandages, and cotton squares can be purchased as well, allowing people to quickly apply the iodine from a sterile package. First aid kits sometimes contain it in this format to make it easy for people to offer first aid, even in adverse conditions.
Before any procedure where the skin will be broken, such as venipuncture or surgery, the skin needs to be sterilized, as there are a number of bacteria naturally present on the skin that can cause infection if introduced into the body. Povidone iodine is one option for handling such disinfections, although alcohol can be used as well. The free iodine in this solution kills microorganisms on contact, and the skin staining can act as a convenient reminder, alerting people to the fact that the skin has or has not been cleaned, depending on the color.
Some patients develop reactions to iodine, and they may experience skin irritation if this product is applied. Ingesting this compound is also not safe, and it is important to keep it out of reach of children and pets, although the flavor can be a significant deterrent to all but the most determined consumers. If someone does ingest it, a poison control center should be called for treatment advice. Sometimes, this product is used as a mouthwash, but patients are expected to spit it out after use.