Should You Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Clean Wounds?


If you know any kids — or remember being
one yourself — you might know that they can be… an active bunch. They tend to do a lot of running around, bouncing
off of walls, and just generally trying to get places without always looking where they’re
going. Which can mean a lot of scraped knees and
elbows. And sometimes, hydrogen peroxide. A lot of people use hydrogen peroxide to clean
wounds, and it isn’t exactly pleasant: in addition to making the scrape hurt even more
by activating the receptors that make you feel pain, the wound gets all weird and bubbly. But the reason it bubbles is also the reason
you probably shouldn’t be using it to clean wounds — even though hydrogen peroxide is
really, really good at killing bacteria. If anything, it’s too good. Peroxide kills bacteria by attracting the
electrons from their cellular membranes, breaking the membranes open. That fizzing you see? That’s mostly the
peroxide reacting with an enzyme inside the bacteria, called catalase, forming water and
oxygen gas. Problem is, hydrogen peroxide is such a great
antiseptic because it doesn’t care what kinds of cells it destroys. So, peroxide will kill your cells, too! It
rips through their membranes like they were just run-of-the-mill, scrape-knee bacteria. And it’ll also make your cells fizz, because
your cells also have catalase in them. Why? Because your body actually makes hydrogen
peroxide on its own! Your cells produce it as waste when they process
sugar. So your cells are stocked with catalase to
help turn that hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen before it can do any harm. But, when peroxide comes at your cells from
the outside, the catalase can’t protect them. So, when you pour peroxide on a cut, and it
starts to fizz, it’s not only killing bacteria — it’s also killing some of your healthy
cells. Like the cells that were gonna help heal the
wound. So what should you do if you or your kid skins
a knee? Well, first of all, if it’s anything major
or you’re concerned for any reason, I’m obligated to tell you to call your doctor. But for scrapes you’re treating at home,
most doctors and researchers wouldn’t recommend using an antiseptic at all — cold water,
and maybe some soap, is enough to clean it. Thank you to Kelsey one of our patrons on
patreon for asking this question, and thanks to all our patrons, who keep these answers
coming. If you’d like to submit a question to be answered, you go to patreon.com/scishow.
And don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe!

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