The field of medicine is always changing and evolving, thanks to new discoveries and improved research methods. As a result, medical techniques that were once thought to be beneficial have now been revealed to often do more harm than good. For example, it was once thought that applying hydrogen peroxide to wounds would kill bacteria and therefore promote healing. Although this belief persists somewhat today, it's only half true.
It's accurate to say that pouring hydrogen peroxide (H202) on wounds kills bacteria. However—and this is a major drawback—it also kills your own cells, including the cells that are already present in the wound fighting off bacteria and forming a scab. Here's a video from SciShow on YouTube that explains what we mean:
In layman's terms, dumping hydrogen peroxide on an open wound is the medical equivalent of dropping a nuclear bomb on the front lines of a battlefield. Sure, you may be wiping out the enemy, but you're also wiping out most of your own troops at the same time.
On top of this, most of us know that hydrogen peroxide burns like crazy on a cut or scrape, and now you know why—it's literally ripping your cells open on a microscopic level. Unless you enjoy experiencing searing pain, slowing down your body's natural healing process, and increasing the likelihood of a gnarly scar, avoid applying H202 to wounds. It might even kill you as a result of an arterial oxygen embolism (introducing air bubbles into your blood stream).
Don't just take our word for it—check out this Oxford study that states, “We emphasize that hydrogen peroxide is a dangerous and unsuitable agent for routine wound irrigation and debridement.”
Despite all this, H202 does have certain valid uses as a disinfectant. Although its powerful reaction with organic cells makes it harmful to your flesh, it's excellent for sterilizing surfaces and surgical tools. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved it for use as an antimicrobial agent, and as an environmentally safe alternative to chlorine-based bleaches.
In a life-or-death survival scenario, if there's absolutely no other disinfectant available, H202 might be worth a shot as a last-ditch effort to stop a deadly infection. However, in any other circumstances, you'd be much better off using regular old H20 and soap.
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