AskDefine | Define prophylactic

Dictionary Definition

prophylactic adj
1 capable of preventing conception or impregnation; "contraceptive devices and medications" [syn: contraceptive, antifertility]
2 tending to ward off; "the swastika...a very ancient prophylactic symbol occurring among all peoples"- Victor Schultze [syn: cautionary, preventive]
3 preventing or contributing to the prevention of disease; "preventive medicine"; "vaccines are prophylactic"; "a prophylactic drug" [syn: preventive, preventative]


1 remedy that prevents or slows the course of an illness or disease; "the doctor recommended several preventatives" [syn: preventive, preventative]
2 contraceptive device consisting of a thin rubber or latex sheath worn over the penis during intercourse [syn: condom, rubber, safety, safe]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A medicine which preserves or defends against disease; a preventive.
  2. American usage only Specifically, a prophylactic condom.
    1977, Human Life Center, International Review of Natural Family Planning, Human Life Center, St. John's University (1977), p. 2,
    • It is not clear whether such education is to be directed to homosexuals (for whom prophylactics are not a contraceptive) or to heterosexuals as well (for whom prophylactics are a contraceptive).
    1994, Mary Louise Roberts, Civilization Without Sexes: reconstructing gender in postwar France, 1917-1927, University of Chicago Press (1994), p. 96,
    • Given the widespread use of coitus interruptus and male prophylactics as contraceptive practices in France […]
    2000, Peter Parnell and John Irving, The Cider House Rules: Here in St. Cloud's, Dramatists Play Service, Inc. (2000), p. 46,
    • Some men put the prophylactic on just the tip of the penis: this is a mistake, because the prophylactic will come off.


  1. Prophylactical.

Extensive Definition

Prophylaxis (Greek "προφυλάσσω" to guard or prevent beforehand) is any medical or public health procedure whose purpose is to prevent, rather than treat or cure a disease. Roughly, prophylactic measures are divided between primary prophylaxis (to prevent the development of a disease) and secondary prophylaxis (whereby the disease has already developed and the patient is protected against worsening of this process).

Specific examples

Influenza vaccines are prophylactic.
Antibiotics are sometimes used prophylactically: For example, during the 2001 anthrax attacks scare in the United States, patients who were believed to be exposed were given ciprofloxacin. Similarly, the use of antibiotic ointments on burns and other wounds is prophylactic.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) may, with caution, be an example of a chronic migraine preventative (see Amitriptyline and migraines' prevention by medicine).
Antimalarials such as chloroquine are used both in treatment and as prophylaxis by visitors to countries where malaria is endemic to prevent the development of the parasitic plasmodium which cause malaria.
Condoms are sometimes referred to as "prophylactics" because of their use to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
Low molecular weight heparin is used as a prophylaxis in hospital patients, as they are at risk for several forms of thrombosis due to their immobilisation.
Professional cleaning of the teeth is dental prophylaxis.
Daily and moderate physical exercise in various forms can be called prophylactic because it can maintain or improve one's health. Cycling for transport appears to very significantly improve health by reducing risk of heart diseases, various cancers, muscular- and skeletal diseases and overall mortality .
Prophylaxis may be administered as vaccine. Prophylactic vaccines include: PEP, nPEP, PREP, or nPREP. PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis used in an occupational setting. nPEP is non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis. nPEP may be used in a recreational setting e.g. during intercourse if the condom breaks and one partner is HIV-positive, nPEP will help to decrease the probability of spread of infection of HIV. PREP is often used in occupational settings e.g. in hospital staff to prevent the spread of HIV or Hepatitis C from patient to staff. nPREP is a measure taken before exposure but in a non-occupational setting (non-occupational Pre-exposure prophylaxis) e.g. injection drug users may seek nPREP vaccinations.

See also


prophylactic in Danish: Profylakse
prophylactic in German: Prophylaxe
prophylactic in Spanish: Profilaxis
prophylactic in French: Prophylaxie
prophylactic in Indonesian: Profilaksis
prophylactic in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Prophylaxe
prophylactic in Lithuanian: Profilaktika
prophylactic in Portuguese: Profilaxia
prophylactic in Russian: Профилактика (медицина)
prophylactic in Swedish: Profylax

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

IUD, aegis, antacid, antidote, antiseptic, arm guard, aseptic, backstop, bag, birth control device, boiled, buffer, bulwark, bumper, condom, contraceptive, contraceptive foam, copyright, counteractant, counteractive, counteragent, counterirritant, covering, crash helmet, cushion, custodial, dashboard, decontaminated, defensive, deterrent, deterring, diaphragm, discouraging, disinfected, dodger, face mask, fender, finger guard, foot guard, forbidding, forestalling, fostering, fuse, goggles, governor, guard, guardian, guarding, guardrail, hand guard, handrail, hard hat, helmet, hygienic, immunizing, insulation, interlock, intrauterine device, knee guard, knuckle guard, laminated glass, life preserver, lifeline, lightning conductor, lightning rod, mask, mudguard, neutralizer, nose guard, nullifier, offset, oral contraceptive, pad, padding, palladium, parental, pasteurized, patent, pessary, pilot, preclusive, preventative, preventive, prohibitive, protecting, protective, protective clothing, protective umbrella, remedy, rubber, safeguard, safeguarding, safety, safety glass, safety plug, safety rail, safety shoes, safety switch, safety valve, sanitary, screen, screening, seat belt, sheltering, shield, shielding, shin guard, skin, spermicidal jelly, spermicide, sterile, sterilized, sun helmet, the pill, tutelary, umbrella, uninfected, vigilant, watchful, windscreen, windshield
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