Dental staff alerted to chlorhexidine allergy risk
Dentists have been urged to ensure they are aware of the potential risk of anaphylactic reaction when administering the chemical antiseptic chlorhexidine.
The chemical is found in a number of medical and dental supplies, including antiseptic mouthwashes, toothpastes, dental implants, antiseptic throat sprays and central venous catheters.
A new medical device alert, issued by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on October 25th, draws attention to the risk of generalised allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock associated with chlorhexidine allergy.
Although available literature indicates that hypersensitivity to chlorhexidine is likely to be very rare, its prevalence is unknown.
"The MHRA has received a number of reports of anaphylactic reactions following the use of products containing chlorhexidine," the alert reveals.
"There are also other reports of allergic reactions to chlorhexidine published in journals."
Dentists and other health care workers are being reminded of the potential for an anaphylactic reaction when administering chlorhexidine, even if there is nothing mentioned in the patient's notes.
When treating a patient with a known allergy to chlorhexidine, it is vital to check the labels and instructions on all products being used to ensure they do not contain the chemical.
If a patient has an unexplained reaction during treatment, dentists should check to see whether any of the medicinal products or medical devices being used contain chlorhexidine.
They should also ensure they keep up to date with the latest guidance on anaphylaxis from organisations such as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the Resuscitation Council and the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI).
The General Dental Council (GDC) has also issued a statement on the use of chlorhexidine and its possible risks.
In addition to drawing attention to the risk of anaphylactic reaction, the GDC has taken the opportunity to remind dentists of the relevant section in its standards for dental professionals.
Section 5.3 requires dentists to "find out about current best practice in the fields in which you work", as well as providing "a good standard of care based on available and up-to-date evidence and reliable guidance".