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The Problem With Hydrogen Peroxide: Why You Shouldn’t Use It For Wound Care

The Problem With Hydrogen Peroxide: Why You Shouldn’t Use It To Clean Wounds
Kids have a knack for scraping their knees and collecting cuts, and in the first step of defense against infection parents tend to reach for a brown bottle in the medicine cabinet. Hydrogen peroxide is the antiseptic known for the bubbles and fizzes it produces as it hits the surface of an open wound. But on a microscopic level — what is it really doing?The guys over at SciShow break down the science for viewers. Peroxide kills bacteria by attracting the electrons out of cells, which rips the membranes opened. The fizzing is a reaction occurs when peroxide comes in contact with catalase, which forms water and oxygen gas. But as it rips open bacteria membranes, it also attacks healthy cells that are also packed with catalase.Hydrogen peroxide is too good at scrubbing a knee scrape clean, but because it also destroys healthy cells in their wake, even the cells that are trying to keep the wound clean in the first place. A simple soap and water cleanse should do the trick, and if it’s more serious a visit to the doctor may be in order.For more insight into the inner workings of hydrogen peroxide’s fizzing and stingy, watch the video for a scientific breakdown. Youtube

Hydrogen peroxide is the brown-bottled antiseptic parents reach for every time their child falls and scrapes their knees. It bubbles and fizzes once it hits the surface of an open wound, but on a microscopic level, what is it really doing? And is it really the best way to clean a cut?

Host of YouTube's SciShow Hank Green tackled the topic in a recent video. Green explained peroxide kills "scraped-knee bacteria" by attracting electrons from their cellular membranes, essentially ripping those membranes open. The fizzing occurs when peroxide comes into contact with an enzyme called catalase, which forms water and oxygen gas. But as the antiseptic rips open bacteria membranes, it also attacks healthy cells also packed with catalase.

Cells produce hydrogen peroxide as waste when the body processes sugar, Green said, "so cells are stocked with catalase to help turn peroxide into water and oxygen before it can do any harm." Peroxide from a bottle, though, can't differentiate between wounded and healthy cells together. As an alternative, parents should consider a simple soap and water cleanse.

For more insight into the inner workings of hydrogen peroxide, watch the video above.

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