Does hydrogen peroxide draw out infection?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

Hydrogen peroxide is often used as a first-aid treatment for wounds, cuts, and scrapes. Many people believe that it has the ability to draw out infection from the wound, but this is actually a misconception. In reality, hydrogen peroxide does not have the ability to specifically target and draw out infection.

When hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with a wound, it reacts with an enzyme called catalase, which is produced by cells in our body. This reaction produces oxygen gas and water. The bubbling effect that is commonly observed when hydrogen peroxide is applied to a wound is actually the release of this oxygen gas.

While the bubbling effect may give the impression that hydrogen peroxide is actively “cleaning” the wound, it is important to note that this reaction is not specific to germs or infection. The oxygen gas released can kill both harmful bacteria and healthy cells within the wound. This indiscriminate killing of cells can actually impede the healing process rather than promote it.

In addition to killing healthy cells, hydrogen peroxide can also slow down the formation of new blood vessels in the wound. Blood vessel formation, known as angiogenesis, is a crucial step in the healing process as it helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to the injured area. By inhibiting angiogenesis, hydrogen peroxide can further hinder the wound healing process.

It is worth mentioning that hydrogen peroxide can still be useful in certain situations, such as when there is visible debris or dirt in the wound. In these cases, using hydrogen peroxide to initially clean the wound can help remove foreign particles. However, it should be followed by a thorough rinse with sterile saline solution or clean water to ensure that all traces of hydrogen peroxide are removed, as its continued presence can be damaging to the healing process.

In general, it is best to avoid using hydrogen peroxide as a routine wound care treatment. Instead, it is recommended to clean wounds with mild soap and water, and then apply an appropriate antiseptic or antibiotic ointment if necessary. Keeping the wound clean and moist, and protecting it with a sterile dressing, is generally more beneficial for the healing process.

It’s important to consult a healthcare professional for proper wound care advice, especially if the wound is deep, large, or shows signs of infection such as increasing pain, redness, swelling, or discharge.