Hydrogen peroxide: Should you use it on wounds?


Hydrogen peroxide: Should you use it on wounds?

If you’re like many people, you probably have a familiar brown bottle filled with hydrogen peroxide somewhere in your home.
One way people have traditionally used the liquid is to treat scrapes and minor cuts. After all, the fizzing means it’s working to kill bacteria, right? Yes, that’s true, but hydrogen peroxide’s antiseptic properties may actually be too good.
“The thinking is that it will kill the bacteria that have penetrated the wound and prevent you from developing an infection,” says Dr. Vinh Doan, a family medicine physician at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Prince Creek. “The challenge with hydrogen peroxide is that it can also damage our own cells in the process.”

Also attacks the body's cells

Although hydrogen peroxide can help remove debris and destroy bacterial cell walls, it doesn’t discriminate when it disinfects a wound. In addition to attacking bacteria, it attacks the body’s own cells, potentially making the injury worse or slowing the healing process, both of which can increase the risk for scarring.
“If you look at the wound healing process – immune response, the coagulation process – it’s a complicated process,” Dr. Doan says. Hydrogen peroxide disrupts that process and can delay wound healing.

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“Rather than using caustic agents such as hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to clean a wound, a better approach is to clean the wound by washing away debris with water, then disinfect it using a mild antibacterial soap and water,” Dr. Doan says.
“Before you apply a bandage or other dressing to the skin, double check the wound is free of debris that could lead to infection later on,” Dr. Doan says. Apply petroleum jelly, then your bandage. Change the bandage daily. In case of a large or deep wound, seek prompt medical care.
“It’s also a good idea to consider getting the tetanus vaccine or tetanus booster if you are eligible,” Dr. Doan says.

Meet the Expert

Vinh Doan

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Dr. Vinh Doan, a graduate of the Tidelands Health MUSC Family Medicine Residency Program, is a family medicine physician who offers care at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Prince Creek.

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