Meds and you

Updated 11 February 2013

Coal tar

Coal tar is effective in treating conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and dandruff.

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Coal tar is the active ingredient of, amongst others, Alphosyl and Linotar.

General Information

Coal tar is effective in treating conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and dandruff. It has a mild anti-inflammatory effect, while also reducing irritation and itching of the skin.

Its undesirable odour and messy appearance may limit its use. Newer products are less messy, but may be less effective.

Contact should be avoided with mucous membranes; infected, blistered or broken skin and the eyes. Coal tar should be applied with caution around the rectal and groin area. Those using coal tar should minimise sun exposure as coal tar may cause photosensitivity.

How does coal tar work?

Application of coal tar provides local relief, while softening dry skin and peeling off excessively hard, scaly and roughened skin. It reduces skin inflammation to some extent and also possesses antiseptic properties.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: unscheduled

Available as: coal tar is available as cream, lotion, ointment, paste and shampoo.

What does it do? coal tar relieves symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.

Overdose risk: low

Dependence risk: low

Is coal tar available as a generic? yes

Is coal tar available on prescription only? no

User information

Stopping this medicine: if prescribed by a doctor use for as long as directed, otherwise it can be stopped when no longer needed.

Prolonged use: coal tar should be used only as directed.

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if:

  • you had allergic reactions to it before
  • you are using other medication

Pregnancy: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before using this drug, or if you are planning to fall pregnant

Breastfeeding: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your condition. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: Use only on advice of a doctor

The elderly: No special precautions need to be taken.

Driving and hazardous work: No special precautions need to be taken.

Alcohol: No special precautions need to be taken.

Possible side effects

Side effect

Frequency

Consult your doctor

Common

Rare

Only if severe

In all cases

local stinging

x

x

photosensitivity

x

x

rash/ skin irritation

x

x

Interactions:

Drug interactions:

tetracyclines

may cause skin to be more sensitive to sunlight

tretinoin

may cause skin to be more sensitive to sunlight

products causing photosensitivity

may cause skin to be more sensitive to sunlight

Recommended dosage

Coal tar containing products can be used 1-4 times daily as directed.

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.

 

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