Use of 2% 2-phenoxyethanol and 0.1% octenidine as antiseptic in premature newborn infants of 23-26 weeks gestation

J Hosp Infect. 2002 Aug;51(4):305-7. doi: 10.1053/jhin.2002.1249.


In preterm newborn infants, topical iodine-containing antiseptics disturb thyroid hormone regulation while alcohol-based disinfectants may cause local burns. We therefore investigated the use of an aqueous solution containing 0.1% octenidine and 2% 2-phenoxyethanol for skin disinfection during the first seven days of life in premature newborns with a gestational age <27 weeks who were consecutively admitted to our level III neonatal intensive care unit between November 1, 2000 and December 31, 2001 (N=24). In boys. (N=13) the renal excretion of absorbed 2-phenoxyethanol and its metabolite 2-phenoxyacetic acid was quantitated by high-pressure liquid chromatography. In the most immature newborn (gestational age 23 6/7 weeks), a transient erythematous reaction was observed following application of the octenidine/phenoxyethanol solution prior to umbilical vessel catheterization. No other local reactions were observed. The urinary concentration of 2-phenoxyethanol was <2 ppm in all samples, while urinary 2-phenoxyacetic acid concentrations reached 5-95 ppm (median 24 ppm). One infant had a culture-proven septicaemia (Bacillus species) during the first seven days of life. We conclude that, in contrast to alcohol-based antiseptics, an aqueous solution of 0.1% octenidine and 2-phenoxyethanol does not cause major skin damage in premature newborn infants <27 weeks' gestation. 2-Phenoxyethanol is readily absorbed by the newborn's skin but apparently undergoes extensive oxidative metabolization to 2-phenoxyacetic acid.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / adverse effects
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacokinetics
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / therapeutic use*
  • Ethylene Glycols / adverse effects
  • Ethylene Glycols / pharmacokinetics
  • Ethylene Glycols / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imines
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Male
  • Pyridines / adverse effects
  • Pyridines / pharmacokinetics
  • Pyridines / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Ethylene Glycols
  • Imines
  • Pyridines
  • phenoxyethanol
  • octenidine