Fusidic acid

1. About fusidic acid

Fusidic acid is an antibiotic.

It's used to treat bacterial infections, such as skin infections (including cellulitis and impetigo), and eye infections (including conjunctivitis, also known as 'red eye').

Fusidic acid is only available on prescription.

It comes as a cream, ointment, or eye drops. Fusidic acid is combined with a steroid in some creams.

It's also given by injection, as a liquid which you swallow, or as tablets, but these are usually only used in hospital.

2. Key facts

Fusidic acid cream or ointment

  • It's usual to use fusidic acid cream or ointment 3 or 4 times a day.
  • It's unusual to get side effects with fusidic acid cream or ointment - but some people get skin irritation where they put it on.
  • Fusidic acid cream or ointment is called by the brand name Fucidin.

Fusidic acid eye drops

  • It's usual to use fusidic acid eye drops twice a day.
  • The most common side effects of fusidic acid eye drops are dry, sore, itchy or stinging eyes. You may also get blurred vision.
  • Don't wear contact lenses while you're using fusidic acid eye drops - the drops can scratch or discolour them.
  • Fusidic acid eye drops are called by the brand name Fucithalmic.

3. Who can and can't take fusidic acid

Fusidic acid (cream, ointment and eye drops) can be used by most adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Fusidic acid can also be used by children.

Fusidic acid isn't suitable for some people.

To make sure fusidic acid is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction to fusidic acid or any other medicines in the past.

4. How and when to use cream or ointment

It's usual to put on fusidic acid cream or ointment 3 or 4 times a day. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you're unsure.

The difference between cream and ointment is that ointment is greasier. Your doctor will probably prescribe cream if you have a lot of infected skin to cover, and ointment for smaller infected areas.

How to put it on

  • 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 any in your eye, wash it out with cold water straight away. Then bathe your eye with eyewash if possible. Your eye may sting. If you start to have any problems with your sight or your eye is sore, contact your doctor immediately.

If you've been told to cover the infected skin with any dressings or bandages, you may not need to use the medicine so often. Follow the advice of your doctor.

How long can I use it for?

Your skin should start to improve after a few days. But it's very important to use the cream or ointment for as long as your doctor has prescribed it.

Treatment with fusidic cream or ointment is usually for 1 or 2 weeks, although sometimes, it can be for longer.

Important

Carry on taking this medicine until you've finished the course, even if you feel better. If you stop your treatment early, the infection could come back

What if I forget to use it?

If you forget to use fusidic acid cream or ointment, put it on as soon as you remember. Then continue to use the cream or ointment at the usual time.

What if I use too much?

If you accidentally put on too much cream or ointment - or if you get some in your mouth - it's unlikely to harm you.

Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you're worried, or if you or your child swallow a lot of the medicine.

5. How and when to use eye drops

Fusidic acid eye drops come as a gel in a tube. As the gel touches your eye it becomes runnier.

It's usual to put 1 drop into your eye twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

How to put in eye drops

  • Take the cap off the tube when you're ready to use the medicine. It's important that the tip of the tube doesn't touch your eye. If the tip of the tube touches your eye, squeeze out 2 or 3 drops straight away on to some tissue and rinse the tip of the tube with salt water.
  • Tilt your head back. Pull your lower eyelid down gently. Hold the tube over your eye and look up. Squeeze 1 drop into your lower eyelid.
  • Close your eye for a minute or two, and press gently on the side of your nose where the corner of your eye meets your nose. This helps to stop the drop from draining away and keeps it in your eye.

You might get some blurred vision straight after putting the drops in, but this should clear after a few minutes.

If the eye drops are for a child, it might be easier to put the drops in while they're asleep or lying down.

If you normally wear contact lenses, wear your glasses instead until your symptoms have completely gone. Wait for 24 hours after the last dose of eye drops before using your contact lenses again. The eye drops can damage some contact lenses.

How long should I use eye drops for?

Your eye should start to feel better within a few days. But it's very important to use the medicine for as long as your doctor has prescribed it. Even when your eye looks normal again, there may still be some bacteria in it.

As a general rule, you should use fusidic acid eye drops for at least 48 hours after you feel better and your eye looks normal. This will help to make sure that all the bacteria have been killed.

Important

Carry on using this medicine until you've finished the course, even if you feel better. If you stop your treatment early, the infection could come back.

What if I forget to use it?

If you forget to put the drops in, do it as soon as you remember. Then continue to use the drops at the usual time.

What if I use too much?

If you accidentally put too many drops in your eye - or if you swallow eye drops by accident - it's unlikely to harm you.

Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you're worried, or if you or your child swallow a lot of the medicine.

6. Side effects

Side effects of cream or ointment

It's unusual to have a side effect to fusidic acid cream or ointment.

Some people get skin irritation where they put on the cream or ointment. This happens in less than 1 in 100 people.

Keep using the cream or ointment, but talk to your doctor or pharmacist if skin irritation bothers you or doesn't go away.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects of fusidic acid cream or ointment are rare and happen in less than 1 in 1,000 people. Tell a doctor straight away if you get:

  • conjunctivitis (red eye)
  • hives (red, itchy, raised areas of skin - also known as urticaria)

Side effects of eye drops

Common side effects of fusidic acid happen in more than 1 in 10 people and include:

  • burning, stinging, itching, soreness or dryness in the eye you are treating
  • blurred vision in the eye you are treating

Keep using the eye drops but talk to your doctor if they bother you or don't go away.

Serious allergic reaction

In rare cases, it's possible to have a serious allergic reaction to fusidic acid cream, ointment or eye drops.

Contact a doctor straight away if:

  • you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • you're wheezing
  • you get tightness in the chest or throat
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

These are warning signs of a serious allergic reaction. A serious allergic reaction is an emergency.

These are not all the side effects of fusidic acid cream or ointment. For a full list see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.

You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.

7. How to cope with side effects

What to do about:

Burning, stinging, itching, soreness or dryness in the eye you are treating - do not rub your eye as this can make things worse. Wet a flannel with cool water and hold it over your eye for a few minutes to ease the symptoms. Make sure that you don't share the flannel with others and wash it after you've used it. Always wash your hands after touching your eyes to stop the infection spreading.

8. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

It's generally safe to use fusidic acid cream, ointment or eye drops while you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

If you're breastfeeding, take care when you put on fusidic acid cream or ointment to make sure you don't accidentally get it on your breasts. If this happens, wash off any cream or ointment from your breasts before feeding your baby.

Important

For safety, tell your doctor if you're trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or if you're breastfeeding.

9. Cautions with other medicines

There aren't any medicines known to cause problems if you take them at the same time as fusidic acid cream, ointment or eye drops.

Important

For safety, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.

10. Common questions

How does fusidic acid work?

Most antibiotics work by killing the bacteria that causes the infection.

Fusidic acid doesn't kill the bacteria. Instead, it works by stopping the bacteria growing and increasing in number. The bacteria then die or your immune system kills them.

How long does it take to work?

Your condition should improve a few days after starting treatment.

It's very important to use all the medicine that your doctor has told you to use, even if you feel better. Carry on using fusidic acid until you've finished the course.

What if I don't get better?

Make another appointment to see your doctor if your infection is no better after using fusidic acid cream, ointment or eye drops for 5 to 7 days. Also tell them if, at any time, you start to feel worse.

Can I drive or ride a bike?

After putting in fusidic acid eye drops, you might get some blurred vision for a short time. Do not drive or ride a bike until your vision is clear.

Will it give me thrush?

No, you're unlikely to get thrush.

Some people get thrush after taking a course of antibiotic tablets. It happens because antibiotics kill the normal harmless bacteria that help to protect you against thrush.

But fusidic acid creams, ointments and eye drops only work on where you put them - on your skin or in your eyes - they don't get into the rest of your body.

Will it stop my contraception working?

Fusidic acid doesn't affect any type of contraception including the contraceptive pill and the morning after pill.

Will it reduce my fertility?

Fusidic acid doesn't reduce male or female fertility.

Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?

You can eat or drink normally while using fusidic acid cream, ointment or eye drops.

Related conditions

Page last reviewed: 28/11/2017
Next review due: 28/11/2020