What is fusidic acid? Facts on its uses, benefits and side effects
What is fusidic acid?
Fusidic acid is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections, such as skin infections (e.g. cellulitis and impetigo) and eye infections (e.g. conjunctivitis). The medication is also available under multiple brand names, including fucidin cream.
Fusidic acid is only available on prescription and comes in the form of cream, ointment or eye drops.
It’s worth noting that this article is an overview of the types of fusidic acid available in primary care: cream, ointment and eye drops. Other forms of the medicine - such as liquid you can swallow and tablets - are sometimes administered in hospital.
- Fusidic acid derives from the fungusFusidium coccineum and was developed by the pharmaceutical company Leo Pharma in Denmark.
- It has been in commercial use since the 1960s.
- Over 1 million items of fusidic acid were prescribed for skin infections by GP surgeries in England in 2017. 155,000 items of fusidic acid were prescribed for eye infections in the same period.
How does fusidic acid work?
Fusidic acid acts as a bacterial protein synthesis inhibitor. This basically means it stops the bacteria from spreading.
A course of treatment typically lasts around seven days. You should not use the cream or ointment for longer than ten days.
How and when to use fusidic acid
Cream or ointment
Fusidic acid cream and/or ointment (both known by the brand name Fucidin) are usually applied three or four times a day.
The NHS provides these instructions:
- Remove the cap. Check the seal isn't broken before you first use the cream or ointment. Then push the spike in the cap through the seal on the tube.
- Always wash your hands before using fusidic acid cream or ointment. Unless you're using the cream or ointment to treat your hands, always wash your hands afterwards too.
- Put a thin layer of cream or ointment onto the infected area and gently rub it in.
If you use it on your face be careful to avoid your eyes.
If you accidentally get some in your eyes, wash it out with cold water straight away. Although it may sting a little afterwards, get in touch with your GP if this persists.
Check with your GP or pharmacist if you have any questions about the application of the medicine or when you should take it. You can also refer to the medicine’s Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) for instructions and ingredients.
Fusidic acid eye drops come in a gel in a tube, which becomes runnier when it touches your eye.
Put one drop of the gel in your affected eye twice a day. Using Echo can help you keep up to date with your doses.
To use the eye drops:
- Take the cap off the tube.
- Tilt your head back. Pull your lower eyelid down gently, hold the tube over your eye and look up. Squeeze one drop into your lower eyelid.
- Close your eye for one or two minutes and press gently on the side of your nose (where the corner of your eye meets your nose). This helps to stop the gel from draining away and keeps it in your eye.
Make sure that the tip of the tube doesn't touch your eye. If the tip of the tube makes contact with your eye, squeeze out two or three drops straight away on to some tissue and rinse the tip of the tube with salt water.
If you wear contact lenses, remove them before you apply fusidic acid eye drops because the drops can scratch or discolour them.
The NHS recommends that you should use fusidic acid eye drops for at least 48 after you feel better and your eye looks normal. This will ensure all the bacteria in the infection are killed.
Do not double dose to make up for a missed dose of fusidic acid.
If you think you’ve accidentally used too much, don’t panic - it’s unlikely to harm you. Speak to your GP if you’re concerned about how much medicine you’ve taken, or if your child has swallowed the cream, ointment or eye drops.
Do not stop using the medication without consulting your GP. If you stop using the treatment too early, the infection could come back.
What are the side effects of fusidic acid?
Fusidic acid side effects are uncommon, though less than 1 in 100 people may experience skin irritation from the cream or ointment form. Let your GP know if the skin irritation is bothersome or doesn’t go away.
Serious side effects of the cream or ointment occur in less than 1 in 1000 people.
Tell your GP straight away if you get:
- Hives (also known as urticaria) - these are red, itchy, raised areas of skin.
- Conjunctivitis (red eye).
Side effects of fusidic acid eye drops are more common and happen in less than 1 in 10 people.
These can include:
- Burning, stinging, itching, soreness or dryness in the eye you’re treating.
- Blurred vision in the eye you’re treating.
Keep using the eye drops but let your GP know if you are experiencing any of these side effects.
Is fusidic acid suitable for me?
As with the majority of medicines, there are certain people that fusidic acid isn’t suitable for.
Fusidic acid can be taken by children.
You should not take fusidic acid if you are:
- allergic to fusidic acid and its salts or to any of the other ingredients in the medication.
- Allergic to lanolin and plan to take the ointment form of fusidic acid.
If you’re unsure whether or not you have an allergy that will make you unsuitable to take fusidic acid, speak to your GP or pharmacist. It’s also worth checking the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) for a full list of ingredients
Fusidic acid interactions
According to the NHS, there are no medicines that are known to cause problems when taken at the same time as fusidic acid cream, ointment or eye drops.
Is fusidic acid safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding
Yes - it’s generally safe to use fusidic acid cream, ointment or eye drops if you’re pregnant or are breastfeeding your baby.
If you’re using the cream or ointment when breastfeeding, be careful not to get any on your breasts. If you do, make sure to wash it off thoroughly before feeding your child.