Silver Nitrate Sticks are a long-established method for chemical cauterisation using a mixture of silver nitrate and potassium nitrate that is attached to the head of the sticks. They are used for a wide range of medical applications, including wound management, stoma care and aphthous stomatitis.
Silver nitrate is an anti-infective, antiseptic and antibacterial agent. It is also an astringent and promotes scab formation (protective tissue covering that forms after skin damage).
When applied to wounds, free silver ions precipitate bacterial proteins and coagulate cellular protein, forming an eschar. This prevents gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria from multiplying in the wound and allows the healing process to progress.
It is also an effective haemostatic agent in the treatment of minor bleeding, for example nose bleeds or after biopsies. It is safe to use when a healthcare professional has proper personal protective equipment.
To use a silver nitrate stick, wet the head with water and roll evenly over the area to be treated several times without applying pressure. The area treated will become dark within a few days.
The dark colouring fades within 10 to 14 days, depending on the type of skin that was treated. The stick should not be used on neonates or on thin delicate skin, as contact with the head of the stick can cause chemical burns to the skin and clothing.