Phenol and menthol in the treatment of chronic skin lesions following mustard gas exposure

Singapore Med J. 2007 May;48(5):392-5.


Introduction: Chronic skin lesions are common late complications of sulphur mustard exposure in veterans injured in chemical warfare. Pruritus is the most common complaint in the chronic phase, with significant effects on the patient's quality of life. The current study evaluated the efficacy of a combination of one percent phenol and one percent menthol in the control of pruritus in these affected patients.

Methods: This randomised, double-blinded clinical trial was performed in chemical warfare-injured veterans with mustard gas-induced pruritus. 80 subjects were selected randomly and divided into two equal groups. One group was treated with a combination of one percent phenol and one percent menthol twice a day, while the other group received a placebo. The therapeutic effects and side effects were evaluated during a six-week treatment course. Pruritus score with a range of 1-48 points was used to calculate the severity of pruritus before and after treatment in both groups.

Results: The final pruritus score in the drug group was significantly different, compared with the placebo group (p-value equals 0.03). There was also a statistically-significant difference between the pre-treatment (19 points) and post-treatment (15.5 points) pruritus scores in the drug group (p-value equals 0.001), but there was no significant difference in the response in the placebo group (p-value equals 0.66). Only a few patients had complaints about the drug, and these were generally minor. The most common complaints were of the greasy nature of the drug and its intolerable odour.

Conclusion: A phenol one percent and menthol one percent combination has significant therapeutic effects for mustard gas-induced pruritus in chemical warfare-injured veterans, in comparison with the placebo.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Antipruritics / administration & dosage*
  • Antipruritics / adverse effects
  • Chemical Warfare Agents / poisoning*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Combinations
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menthol / administration & dosage*
  • Menthol / adverse effects
  • Mustard Gas / poisoning*
  • Phenol / administration & dosage*
  • Phenol / adverse effects
  • Pruritus / chemically induced*
  • Pruritus / drug therapy*
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced
  • Skin Diseases / drug therapy


  • Antipruritics
  • Chemical Warfare Agents
  • Drug Combinations
  • Menthol
  • Phenol
  • Mustard Gas