What is the difference between antiseptics and antibiotics?

Question from Chelsea Barker

Antiseptics and antibiotics are both forms of antimicrobials, which are compounds that kill microbes
such as bacteria, fungi and other pathogens. Antiseptics like iodine and rubbing alcohol are applied externally in order to kill microbes and stop their growth. However, antibiotics are absorbed or ingested as a cream, tablet or injection to treat infections inside the body. 

While some antiseptics can inactivate viruses and kill fungi, antibiotics will only work against bacteria, leaving infections like the common cold, flu or athlete’s foot completely unaffected.


Answered by Laura Mears for Brain Dump in How It Works issue 106.

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