Looks can be deceiving!


Boric acid suppositories are sometimes used to treat chronic vaginal infections when traditional treatments have failed. Vaginal infections are typically treated with antibiotics, such as metronidazole. For some women, the infection comes back right away. When this happens, some doctors will recommend trying boric acid suppositories.

Boric acid is a chemical substance with mild antiseptic, antifungal, and antiviral properties. It can be found in products such as pesticides, fertilizers, cleaning products and pool water chemicals. It can also be used as a remedy in humans to treat different ailments. However, boric acid can be extremely dangerous if misused and should only be used if recommended by your doctor. 

figure 1 boric acid
  Figure 1

Your doctor may recommend using a boric acid suppository, inserted into the vagina, every night for 7 to 14 days. There are usually minimal side effects from this treatment. Some common side effects include irritation of the local area, watery discharge, and a gritty feeling during intercourse. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved boric acid suppositories as a treatment for vaginal infections because not enough research supports its safety and effectiveness. There are also other safety concerns with using this product.

Recently, a woman purchased boric acid suppositories to treat her vaginal infection. The suppositories she bought were shaped like capsules, did not come with an applicator, and had an image of a woman’s face on the label (Figure 1). The product was also advertised as vegan, soy free, and gluten which are words often used to describe food products. So the woman swallowed one of the suppositories instead of inserting it into her vagina. Poison Control was contacted soon after she realized her mistake. Luckily, she was not injured but did go to a local emergency department for treatment.

What you can do: Before taking a new medicine, dietary supplement, herbal remedy, or alternative treatment, discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor. Read the ingredients, directions, and warnings on the product before use. Talk to you pharmacist about over-the-counter products, especially herbal remedies and alternative treatments to find out how to appropriately take the product and to determine if the product will interact or affect other medications that you normally take. Look for any wording that states not to take by mouth or alternative directions, which are usually located on the front of the bottle, but may also be hidden on the back. Products that are to be inserted into the vagina usually come with an applicator (Figure 2). Be aware that just because a product advertises itself as natural and/or vegan, does not mean that it is safe to take by mouth. Lastly, when choosing products, if possible, purchase from companies who have clear labels and directions (Figure 3) or from a company that is familiar to you.


figure 2 boric acid

Figure 2

                  figure 3 boric acid   Figure 3
Created on May 22, 2018

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