Phenol: Uses, Side Effects & Dosage Guide

Phenol is an aromatic organic compound containing hydroxyl and phenyl groups. Phenol is toxic and is available in different forms according to their uses. Nowadays most commonly phenol is a part of spray cleaners and mouthwashes. Phenol is a colourless compound. Phenol is widely used in hospitals as a disinfectant and has some sugary scent also. Phenol is available in various forms in healthy dosages for various health and medical-related purposes. 1.4 percent phenol is widely used as an antiseptic to treat the sore throat. Phenol is also used as analgesics to relieve the throat pain. Because of the effectiveness of phenol in treating pharyngitis, it is also used as an adjunctive in the treatment of pharyngitis.

Phenol, in its concentrated form, is commonly used in chemical matrixectomy. Chemical matrixectomy is a chemical procedure in which phenol is used in a very concentrated amount to treat the fingernails and ingrown toes, a procedure first discovered by Otto Boll in 1945. Phenol is also used widely to preserve some vaccines also.

Because of the antiseptic and disinfectant property of phenol, it is widely used to kill many kinds of bacteria, viruses and some fungi also. Besides the antiseptic and disinfectant property of phenol, it takes too much time to kill the spores and also requires a very concentrated amount of phenol to kill the spores. Phenol is sometimes also used to disinfect the skin and in treating the itching. Phenol is very useful in a procedure called penalization in which the surgical treatment of ingrown toenail is done.

Various researches have shown that regular exposure to the phenol is associated with abortions in females, but more studies need to know the exact mechanism. Phenol has been used as a war tool in the world war due to its toxic nature.

It is known that use of plants containing phenol act as an antioxidant. Therefore it is thought that phenol, along with other compounds, can inhibit or stop the free radical reactions in our body. Because of its antioxidant property phenol prevents the DNA from any damage associated with free radical production and hence imparts long term health effects. 

Free radicals are unstable molecules which are formed by loss of electrons and can damage the healthy cells by damaging the DNA. Free radicals can also cause to produce more and more free radicals. Hence cause severe damage to the various healthy cells of our body. Antioxidants like phenol inhibit the formation of these free radicals and hence have protective property towards healthy cells.

There are various phenol containing antioxidants some of them are as follow:

  • Bioflavonoids which are present in large amounts in vegetables, fruits, wines, and teas.
  • Tocopherols which are found in many green vegetables, nuts, and fruits.
  • Vitamin E
  • Resveratrol
  • Oregano oil
  • Carvacrol
  • Cymene
  • Terpinene
  • Thymol 

Some studies have shown that phenol also retains the anticancer properties. It is shown that taking phenol containing diet can strengthen the immune system and make cells of the body more resistant to neoplasias. Some studies also showed that phenol is also useful in treating different kinds of neoplasia by making the cancerous cells more prone to chemotherapy agents.

Nowadays, carbolic soaps containing phenols are used in hospitals during surgical procedures.

Besides all the benefits of phenol, it should be kept in mind that phenol also have various adverse effects and some might be proved fatal therefore phenol should be used with caution or as directed by the doctors or health care professionals.


Phenol is indicated in the following conditions:

  • Irritation or pain of mouth And throat
  • Throat, gum and mouth irritation
  • Sclerotherapy of haemorrhoids
  • Antiseptic agent
  • Used as an oral analgesic
  • Also used in Chloraseptic to treat pharyngitis
  • Phenol is used in surgical ingrown toenail treatment known as penalization
  • Phenol injections to treat muscle spasticity
  • Phenol is used as a preservative


Use of phenol is contraindicated in patients who are allergic to phenol and in-person, who is allergic to the local anaesthetic.

Side effects

Side effects of phenol are

  • Allergic reactions
  • Itching or hives
  • Swelling on face and hand
  • Swelling or tingling in mouth and throat
  • Chest tightness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Chest pain or an uneven heart pain
  • Swelling in the area of application of phenol
  • Skin Rash
  • Trembling
  • It can cause burn and blisters


Phenol may have many uses and health benefits, but it can also be toxic or cause long-term health effects if you’re exposed to it in high amounts.

Here a few tips to avoid exposure:

  • The long term exposure to phenol may lead to cardiac diseases, but this is done along with other harmful compounds with phenol. 
  • Phenol is very corrosive in its pure form; therefore if you eat the phenol, it may cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract along with the alimentary tract. It damages the oesophagus severely, so be careful and don’t eat the things containing phenol.
  • A pure form of phenol can cause burns and blisters when it comes in contact with the skin. Therefore care should be taken if you are handling phenol products.
  • Muscle spasm and breathing difficulties may occur if you inhale a lot of phenol accidentally. Therefore you should not inhale the products containing phenol.
  • If you accidentally drink the water containing phenol can lead to muscle spasm and difficulty in walking.

High-risk groups

High-risk groups for phenol use includes

  • Children under three years
  • Pregnant mothers
  • Breastfeeding mothers
  • patients with histories of Allergic reactions