Bad News, Everybody: Hydrogen Peroxide Is Useless

OK, so hydrogen peroxide is good for some things, such as creating an uninspired volcano for your school science fair. But what it's not great at is disinfecting cuts and scrapes.

When you pour hydrogen peroxide on a wound, that telltale foam is surely the death rattle of a thousand screaming bacteria, right? Well, it turns out it's nothing but a chemical reaction to the enzyme catalase, which is found in our blood and cells. When hydrogen peroxide meets catalase, it turns into oxygen gas and water, and boom! Medically reassuring fizz ensues.

Trenten Kelley/flickrFollowed by the medically reassuring stinging and crying ... uh, so we've heard.

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But after centuries of blindly trusting the stuff, scientists have found that hydrogen peroxide doesn't prevent bacterial growth or reduce the risk of infection at incision sites. In fact, it may actually slow the healing process. Thanks, brown bottle of lies!

The alternative? Flush the wound with running tap water or saline, then use a mild soap to clean the surrounding area. Top it off with a thin layer of Vaseline for added moisture and protection. (Antibiotic ointments can lead to swelling and allergic reactions.) And despite the lore that wounds should breathe, they heal best when covered and moist. So slap on a bandage and change it regularly. As for the remaining peroxide in your medicine cabinet ... have you ever considered going blonde?

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