Potassium permanganate

Potassium permanganate

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Potassium permanganate appears as a purplish colored crystalline solid. Noncombustible but accelerates the burning of combustible material. If the combustible material is finely divided the mixture may be explosive. Contact with liquid combustible materials may result in spontaneous ignition. Contact with sulfuric acid may cause fire or explosion. Used to make other chemicals and as a disinfectant.

Potassium permanganate is used as a medication for a number of skin conditions. This includes fungal infections of the foot, impetigo, pemphigus, superficial wounds, dermatitis, and tropical ulcers. For tropical ulcers it is used together with procaine benzylpenicillin. Typically it is used in skin conditions that produce a lot of liquid. It can be applied as a soaked dressing or a bath.

Side effects may include irritation of the skin and discoloration of clothing. If it is taken by mouth, toxicity and death may occur. Potassium permanganate is an oxidizing agent. The British National Formulary recommends that each 100 mg be dissolved in a liter of water before use.

Potassium permanganate was first made in the 1600s and came into common medical use at least as early as the 1800s. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.

Potassium permanganate

Indicators and Reagents

Substances used for the detection, identification, analysis, etc. of chemical, biological, or pathologic processes or conditions. Indicators are substances that change in physical appearance, e.g., color, at or approaching the endpoint of a chemical titration, e.g., on the passage between acidity and alkalinity. Reagents are substances used for the detection or determination of another substance by chemical or microscopical means, especially analysis. Types of reagents are precipitants, solvents, oxidizers, reducers, fluxes, and colorimetric reagents. (From Grant and Hackh’s Chemical Dictionary, 5th ed, p301, p499)

Medical uses

Uses include for fungal infections of the foot, impetigo, pemphigus, superficial wounds, dermatitis (eczema), and tropical ulcers. Typically it is used in skin conditions that produce a lot of liquid. For tropical ulcers it is used together with procaine benzylpenicillin for two to four weeks.


It can be used in children and adults. It can be applied as a soaked dressing or a bath. Petroleum jelly may be used on the nails before soaking to prevent their discoloration. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not recommend its use in either the crystal or tablet form

Side effects


Side effects may include irritation of the skin and discoloration of clothing. A harsh burn on a child from an undissolved tablet has been reported. For treating eczema, it is recommended using for a few days at a time due to the possibility of it irritating the skin. Higher concentration solutions can result in chemical burns. Therefore, the British National Formulary recommends 100 mg be dissolved in a liter of water before use to form a 1:10,000 (0.01%) solution. Wrapping the dressings soaked with potassium permanganate is not recommended

By mouth

If taken by mouth it is deemed to be very toxic. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath may occur. If a sufficiently large amount (about 10 grams) is eaten death may occur.

Concentrated solutions when drunk have resulted in adult respiratory distress syndrome or swelling of the airway. Recommended measures for those who have ingested potassium permanganate include gastroscopy. Activated charcoal or medications to cause vomiting are not recommended. While medications like ranitidine and N-acetylcysteine may be used in toxicity, evidence for this use is poor

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