An antiseptic is something that kills germs and so prevents or stops an infection. Germs cause infection, just as they cause food to rot or become putrid.
The word antiseptic comes from the Greek anti, which means against, and sepsis, which means putrefaction. When you put iodine or Mercurochrome on a cut, you are using an antiseptic to kill any germs that might get into the cut. Anything that is done to keep food from spoiling is antiseptic. Some germs that spoil food are killed by boiling, others are destroyed by freezing.
Although doctors and scientists had been studying diseases for thousands of years, they did not know that germs caused infection until about a hundred years ago. A great English doctor, Lord Lister, was the father of antiseptic surgery; that is, he was the first man to prevent infection after an operation by killing all the germs on his hands and instruments. He was sure that germs caused infection. About 1867, Lister performed the first antiseptic operation. He had all the surgical instruments boiled, he washed his hands, and he kept everything around the patient clean and germfree Before this, many patients died after operations. Today, a patient rarely dies from an infection after an operation. Surgery is now completely antiseptic. In daily life, the best antiseptic is soap and water.
There are germs in the air all around us and there are germs in dirt. If you are dirty you have germs on you. Keep yourself clean and you will greatly help to keep yourself from getting any infection. Use an antiseptic immediately if a cut or bruise breaks your skin. There are many good antiseptics for cuts and bruises. Of course, you should see a doctor if you have a bad wound.