What are antibiotic ointments?
Antibiotic ointments are a vital treatment for wounds and skin abrasions, and they play a major role in administering effective first aid in the event of an emergency. The vast majority of these ointments are combination treatments that utilize active ingredients like bacitracin, neomycin and polymyxin B to prevent infections in minor cuts, scrapes and burns by killing bacteria on the skin. While these ointments do not speed the healing process, they dramatically reduce the chances of infection and other complications.
Skin infections can arise even from the smallest of wounds if they are not properly managed, as potentially threatening organisms can be found throughout the environment, as well as contracted from other humans and animals. Infections develop when organisms find a way to breach the body's immune system defenses and begin to multiply and can cause adverse symptoms in the body.
How do skin infections occur?
Wounds that are not treated with antibiotic ointments will have to rely on the body's immune system responses to eliminate microorganisms that can multiply and spread throughout the body. Bacteria and other microorganisms must overcome:
- Antibodies: These are blood proteins that are produced to counter the presence of a specific antigen that the body recognizes as alien. These antibodies can target specific microbes and are produced immediately after an individual is infected or exposed to the organism.
- Skin: The skin is the body's most effective means of preventing infections by physically blocking them from entry, but when cuts or open wounds occur that are untreated with antibiotic ointments, this can make the body more susceptible to germs.
- Resident Flora: This is the body's "good bacteria" that supports a number of healthy physiological functions and is heavily contingent on an individual's diet, sanitary conditions and overall hygiene to determine what resident flora is active at a given time. These organisms protect the body from disease-causing microbes (sometimes called transient flora) by competing with other germs for dominance, and they can effectively "crowd out" invading organisms that can't establish themselves permanently.
- Inflammatory Response: This is the natural response produced by the immune system to the presence of foreign microbes. The fever, redness and swelling that occurs is typically related to the presence of white blood cells that surround and destroy disease-causing germs.
Why do antibiotic ointments require a prescription for reimbursement?
As of January 2011 and as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), a new set of uniform standards were put into place regarding the reimbursement of medical expenses. To reimburse the cost of OTC medicines and drugs under FSAs, HSAs and other consumer spending accounts, account holders must submit a prescription from a physician for each product.
Over-the-counter (OTC) antibiotic ointments now require a prescription from a doctor to be purchased through an FSA, HSA or HRA. For more information on a specific product, please consult our Eligibility List.