Hydrogen peroxide is good for a wound
We want to say right off the bat that being concerned about the cleanliness of a wound is a good idea. You want your wounds to be clean. Washing them out is an excellent way to prevent infection. Washing them out with hydrogen peroxide, however, isn't such a good idea. We know you've heard that it is an excellent antiseptic for wounds, but that, unfortunately, is a myth.
We know you are shocked. After all, many of you have used hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide has been put on many a skinned knee or cut finger. You've seen it bubble and froth on the cut, which you've been told, is how you know its working. It's killing the germs, right there before your eyes. If only it were so.
There have been a number of well-designed studies that have examined how hydrogen peroxide works as an antiseptic. In 1987, in the Journal of Family Practice, a randomized controlled trial was conducted comparing topical antibiotics, antiseptics, and wound protectants on their ability to heal wounds. Forty-eight (daring) people volunteered to have six blisters inflicted on them, three on each arm, in such a way that they were infected with a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. Five different substances were placed on five different blisters, and the sixth was left alone. All the wounds were covered with occlusive dressings. Wounds treated with antibiotic ointments healed significantly faster than any other preparation, and were the only ones that had the infection cleared after two applications. Hydrogen peroxide didn't do that. It did not help to clear the staph infection.
Another study, published in 2009 in the Journal of Trauma, exposed cultures of cells to a number of antiseptic solutions to see how they affected cell migration. They found that hydrogen peroxide actually hurt the healing process, by reducing both the migration and proliferation of fibroblasts, which are essential to wound healing. Remember that bubbling? It's the hydrogen peroxide attacking your own cells as much as it is attacking anything infectious. The good cells are not able to come in and do the healing work that they are supposed to.
Adding insult to injury, a paper in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery in 2010 reported on a woman who suffered from a heart attack that seemed to be brought on by an oxygen embolism that was caused by irrigation of a wound on her breast with hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide killed her! We're not suggesting this is common or likely to happen, but as the authors of that report note, it should be factored into decision that debate the pros and cons of using hydrogen peroxide. Let's recap. Hydrogen peroxide does not appear to help prevent or treat infection in wounds. Hydrogen peroxide does appear to slow healing, and perhaps to cause cell damage. Other antiseptic solutions do appear to promote healing and fight infection. Continuing to believe that hydrogen peroxide is a good thing to use in a wound means continuing to believe in a myth.