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You likely know about Neosporin and other antibiotic ointments for their use on cuts that need help healing, maybe on your arm or your leg. But these ointments can also be applied in and around your nose for a variety of purposes.

Keep reading to find out what Neosporin in your nose can and can’t be used for, along with best practices for use.

While triple antibiotic ointments like Neosporin can help to reduce bacterial build-up in and near the nose, it cannot be used to prevent flus or other viral illnesses — including COVID-19.

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Neosporin is an ointment that contains three types of antibiotics: neomycin, polymyxin, and bacitracin. This ointment is available over-the-counter, and people commonly use it to prevent skin injuries from becoming infected.

Neosporin is also available as a generic ointment, often labeled as a “triple antibiotic ointment.” Some people also use petroleum jelly as an alternative to triple antibiotic ointments like Neosporin.

If you read the product labels carefully, the labels mention not putting the ointment in the nose (as well as keeping it out of your eyes and mouth). For this reason, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before you use Neosporin as a treatment in your nose.

Triple antibiotic ointments like Neosporin can help to reduce bacterial build-up in the nose. Some people use them to help treat the following medical concerns:

Researchers have also studied the application of nasal triple antibiotic ointments as a means to reduce the buildup of bacteria in the nose. This is because the nose is a major “filtration system” for bacteria, and bacteria can be unintentionally inhaled via the nose.

Some of the bacteria can “colonize” or build up in the nasal passages. If these were to go deeper into the nose, you could potentially be at increased risk for other infection types.

If you want to try applying Neosporin in your nose, you can use the following steps:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Apply the ointment to a cotton swab or cotton pad.
  • Gently apply to the area just inside the nostril, taking care not to put the swab too high up the nostril, or to swab too harshly and cause bleeding.
  • Repeat in the other nostril.
  • Wash your hands and dispose of cotton swabs.

Don’t apply the ointment more than three times a day unless your doctor directs you otherwise. Doing so more frequently could result in more aggravation and irritation of the nasal passages.

With any illness, there are a lot of rumors that circulate the Internet regarding treatment and prevention. One example is that putting antibiotic ointment like Neosporin in your nose can prevent illnesses like the flu and COVID-19.

The easiest explanation as to why this won’t work is to remember what you use antibiotic ointments for: to kill infectious bacteria. COVID-19 and the flu are viruses, not bacteria. This is the same reason why antibiotics unfortunately won’t treat COVID-19 either.

When it comes to keeping COVID-19 away, you’re better off sticking with methods that can have the power to protect against viruses. These include:

  • mask wearing
  • social distancing
  • hand washing
  • not touching your face

Nasal Neosporin may help reduce the likelihood of bacteria getting introduced into your body via the nose. It can also help to heal small abrasions or cuts in the nose.

You can usually apply it around and slightly inside the nostrils to experience its benefits. That said, it’s a good idea to check with a doctor before using Neosporin in your nose.

Remember: Neosporin helps to kill bacteria, not viruses like COVID-19. It’s not an effective treatment or preventive measure for viral infections.