If one of the first things you do when you cut yourself is flood the wound with hydrogen peroxide, STOP!
I know you think the bubbling action is awesome and proof that it’s doing what it was meant to do — killing all the bad stuff. Well, here’s what wound specialist Dr. Walter Keller has to say about hydrogen peroxide: “The hydrogen peroxide bubbling releases pure oxygen, which kills bacteria but also the healthy cells, slowing down wound healing.”
In other words, hydrogen peroxide does not help heal the wound; it does just the opposite. Rubbing alcohol is also something you shouldn’t use to clean the wound itself.
How to clean a wound
Cleaning the wound as soon as possible is important and Dr. Keller says it’s best to use a saline solution, which is a 0.9 percent salt solution. If saline isn’t available, use lukewarm tap water. Hold the wound under the running water or fill a tub and pour the water from a cup. The longer the better, because you are trying to remove all the dirt, bacteria and debris. Don’t scrub with a washcloth because you may cause even more damage and increase the risk of infection. And don’t touch it with your hands unless you are wearing medical gloves or have washed them with soap and water. You are trying to avoid infection, not welcome it.
How to wash your hands
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
- Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
How to stop bleeding
If the wound is bleeding try to stop it by applying direct pressure continuously for five minutes, using layers of dry gauze or tissue. Remember to make sure your hands have been washed thoroughly or wear gloves. When the bleeding stops, clean the wound and put on a clean dry dressing, says Dr. Keller.
No antibiotic ointment?
You don’t need to put on any antibiotic cream or ointment. Studies have shown that neither lowers the risk against infection. Washing it well and keeping the wound clean and covered is your best protection. Make sure to let your doctor know immediately if you see any signs that the wound might be infected.
Signs of infection
- Localized redness
Protected and moist promotes the best healing
Dr. Keller says wounds should be kept moist, not dry because, “It keeps cells alive. If you let it dry out the cells die like an old shriveled up piece of fruit. Think sliced apple after a few hours.”
When you let the wound dry it’s more likely a scab will form, which, believe it or not, can interfere with the healing process. They may be nature’s way of protecting against germs, but because healthy skin cells have to work their way under the scab to form new tissue it can slow things down. Scabs are also more likely to leave scars and some people are obsessed with picking them, which slows down healing and increases the risk of infection.
Keep the wound moist by covering it with a non-stick bandage that absorbs fluids while maintaining a natural moisture balance. Some people use hydrocolloid bandages, which create an environment that’s almost like a second skin. Change the bandage daily and don’t forget to scrub your hands first. When you reapply the bandage, if you think it needs some additional moisture, Dr. Keller recommends a product called Hydrogel, which he says is available over the counter at most pharmacies.
Pulling off the band aid
When you take off an adhesive bandage, it is NOT a good idea to rip it off quickly because you risk reopening the wound or damaging surrounding tissue. Instead, peel it off slowly and gently. If it’s in a hairy area and you want to minimize the pain, pull it in the same direction as the hair growth.
When you shouldn’t try to do it yourself
If the wound is big, deep, extremely painful, won’t stop bleeding or has something in it that you can’t get out, you need to see a medical professional. If it needs stitches, to lower the risk of infection you should get medical attention within six to eight hours after the injury.
What if the wound won’t heal?
Making sure your hands are scrupulously clean or wearing medical gloves whenever you tend to the wound will go a long way in creating the best healing environment. But, if your wound doesn’t heal within four weeks, you need to see your doctor or a wound care specialist. As for that bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your medicine chest, no need to toss it. It supposedly has lots of other uses, from cleaning windows and mirrors to removing mold.
Do you have any other first aid questions? Send them to me in the comment section below or by email and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.
You mentioned Hydrogel. Your thoughts on Aquaphor, please
I got in touch with Dr. Keller, the wound care specialist in my blog post. Here is what he says: “Hydrogel (many types and names) basically is Saline .9 % 90-98& and a gel ( a collegan) for open wounds for healing
Aquaphor is a skin treatment for dry skin,cracked skin ,protection of skin but not open wounds.
Aquaphor has 41% Petrolium (like vasaline) mineral oil, Cersin , Lanolin (Fat from sheep) Alcohol, and Glycerin.”
I hope that helps Fran.
I wanted to mention that even if/though peroxide can hinder the healing process, it’s not as if you’re putting it on everytime that it dries. So knowing that, and knowing that the half life of peroxide is something like 2 minutes or what-not than it would only affect the wound that first time.
I’m not being an a**hole, it’s just the way I communicate with people and it doesn’t always offends people especially when they find out why. Anyhow, I’m not a doctor or a bio-chemist or anything in the health related fields, it’s just something I though of when i began reading your article.
Thanks for the info, and if you care to reply then let me know what you think
I poured hydrogen peroxide into my deep wound that I had stitched four days ago and woke up to pain. That’s when I found i should NOT have done that and am likely killing the healing bacteria. What should I do now? Leg hurting bad
Shelley, it’s been a few days since you posted your comment. I’m sorry I didn’t get back right away. My advice would have been to check with your doctor. What did you end up doing? How is your leg now?
” ..the healilng bacteria …” ??? You seem to have a massive misunderstanding of biology .. THERE ARE NO SUCH bacteria! They are ‘foreign’ organisims’ who are tremendously likely to be BAD/Dangerous , and only in extremely rare circumstances could I, a physician, even IMAGINE bacteria presence in any wound to be beneficial !!
I have always used peroxide with the first clean up let fizzle than rinse with water. I dry it well with a hair dryer apply healing antibacterial and band aid or tape. I take the band aid off the next day and have had no problems with wound healing. My husband had a diabetic foot ulcer I discovered when I noticed blood on the floor when he was walking in his socks. I treated it the first time with peroxide dried with a hairdryer and applied healing antibiotic and a gauze pad and tape. I took a picture of it to give to his doctor and every week I took a new one. I cleaned it out believe or not with a make remover pads I used for my face, applied ointment and coved it in gauze and tape. Within three weeks it was a very small ulcer and the doctor told him “whatever your wife is doing keep it up”.
I’m having a terrible time with healing from a removed toenail. Been over a week now, still oozing and sore. Any thoughts? Have discontinued peroxide. Doctor suggested oral antibiotics but they upset my stomach and cause hives. Please advise.
Thank you out of all of the articles I have readed this one is the one that stands between them all this one is the best.
I am in the beauty industry and you will not believe how many scars could of been prevented if the general public knew this ! Keep up the good work!
Just another good use for peroxide. It’s great at getting blood out of clothing if you should accidentally cut your self in the kitchen. This was passed on to me by an wonderful Greek physician many years ago. Just pour some on the fabric, watch it bubble up and presto! Not sure about colored fabrics but I have used it on neutral colors with no issues. Btw, my husband was a patient of Dr. Keller’s a few years ago. The best
Thanks for that Linda. I wonder it would take out a raspberry stain. I was weeding this weekend and managed to plop down on some raspberries. Got scratched on my legs, too. And let’s not forget attacked by mosquitoes! I was a mess but the raspberry bushes seemed happy!!
DO NOT EVER SOAK A FINGER OR TOE IN PEROXIDE..I did this once after only soaking my infected finger in peroxide for approximetly 4 minutes, and within a few days my nail started to peel off. After a while the entire nail came off and took 4 months to grow back a new nail..
Thank you, It is the best than the other I read out of all of the article. Many scars could have been prevented if the general public knew this! Keep it up!
I have been suffering from a infected wound after a breast biopsy. I went through a round of antibiotic and was cleaning every morning and night with peroxide. Everything this article said happened. Scabbed over with infection underneath. When I went back to the doctor she told be to stop using the peroxide and to use MediHoney, it’s a sterile form of honey. Within one week it was all healed.
Big Pharma would love everyone to stop using a simple inexpensive solution as hydrogen peroxide that speeds up wound healing and can make the difference between avoiding infection and dealing with an overly long healing process. I had a burn years ago on my thigh, listened to all the Internet advice don’t use hydrogen peroxide, it destroys tissues, etc and only used ointments. The burn got infected, ointments were acting like all ointments I have used, keeping the wound moist, and PROLONGING the healing process, and ALLOWING all kinds of complications that hydrogen peroxide, when properly used, eliminated. After several days of needless suffering, I got out my hydrogen peroxide that has always quickly taken care of all kinds of tough wounds, including those on dogs who one cannot properly wash, etc, and within a day had a noticeable turnaround, and after that quickly healed, as the hydrogen visibly took care of the infection from the moist ointments, and soon the burn shrank and healed. Afterwards I used vit e oil and had no scarring. Hydrogen peroxide works. It requires knowing it is caustic and works on tissues when used in the length of time it fizzles when applied on cuts, scrapes, blisters etc, but it is not for deep wounds as one person reported here they applied it to. For OTC type of wounds, cuts, it works wonders and prevents needless complications. And there are many OTC treatments to apply on a healed new scar in order to make it disappear, and so the natural healing process is not something we should scoff at. I love to see a scab as it means the open wound vunerability is gone and soon after the healing process, things like arnica gel, etc, take care of eliminating scars. No reason to get paranoid to omit normal scab in order to sidestep scars, as that is putting the cart before the horse. For people as myself who cannot tolerate oral antibiotics, hydrogen peroxide saves the day, over and again. However, don’t soak any body part in it as it WILL burn it. It is meant only for application that is not on more than one minute. Spray, dab, pour, let it fizzle, air dry, that is it.
Vivian, I’m glad that it worked for you. The thing is, I interviewed a doctor who specializes in wound care and has many years of experience. I know him and don’t believe for a second that he would give advice that he couldn’t back up.
Hello Diane – I fell asleep on a heating pad (definitely recommend one that has an automatic shut off) and got a pretty good blister from it. The blister of course was accidentally opened and an infection settled in. After trying to just keep it clean along with using a triple antibiotic ointment for the infection didn’t work, I went to see a doctor. By this time, swelling, pain and redness that extended up to 6 inches from the wound had appeared. He wrote a prescription for silver sulfadiazine cream and told me to wash it with soap and water twice a day, apply the cream afterwards and leave it uncovered during the day, but covered with a gauze bandage at night. He also said about every 3rd day, use peroxide on the scab to open the wound and pick most of the scab off, use the cream afterwards and continue as before. My husband and daughter (retired pharmacist and an RN) said I needed to be put on antibiotics also so I’m doing that too. The doctor said doing the peroxide bit would make the wound get smaller and smaller until gone. Any thoughts on this?
im on blood thinners and when my nose starts to bleed it pours out and it takes me hours to control the bleeding
any ideas how I can control the bleeding sooner
also I will stop taking the blood thinners for a few days is this good or bad
I never knew that healthy skin cells work under the scab to form new tissue. My sister’s daughter had a scrape on her knee and is wondering how to properly treat it. I’ll share this with her so she knows how to deal with it.
How can nebulizing hydrogen peroxide be safe when it destroys tissue?