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Is It Safe to Drink Hydrogen Peroxide?

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 28, 2021

Hydrogen peroxide is not meant to be drunk at all or to be used on the skin in large amounts. 

Hydrogen peroxide is a common at-home teeth whitener. It’s found in a lot of household products and is used as a natural therapy for many minor conditions. But careless use of hydrogen peroxide can have dangerous effects on the human body.

Hydrogen Peroxide Products

Although hydrogen peroxide is found in most households, it’s never pure hydrogen peroxide. It’s often combined with everyday items, like hair bleach, which contains 6% to 10% hydrogen peroxide. Some contact solutions, toothpastes, mouth washes, bathroom cleaners, and other similar products have small amounts of hydrogen peroxide in them, too.

These products are available to the general public because they’re safe for certain uses. Always follow the instructions or recommended uses, though, to avoid harm.

There are solutions available that are advertised as “pure” hydrogen peroxide. But these household options are made up of only 3% hydrogen peroxide and 97% water. Food grade or industrial-strength solutions have 35% or more hydrogen peroxide and are extremely dangerous. These are not typically kept in homes and should not be drunk.

Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy

Hydrogen peroxide has disinfectant properties when used on the skin and can be used for a number of therapeutic purposes, including:

  • Cleaning cuts or other injuries
  • Rinsing the inside of the mouth
  • Reducing seasonal allergies
  • Preventing warts
  • Treating shingles

Hydrogen peroxide therapies can solve some minor health issues you may have, but these treatments come with risks. Coming in contact with high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide is not recommended. If you use too much of the wrong kind of hydrogen peroxide, you may have either minor or serious health problems.

Possible Side Effects of Swallowing Hydrogen Peroxide

Accidentally swallowing a small amount of hydrogen peroxide is usually okay and won’t cause much damage, but be on the lookout for certain side effects. These may include:

  • Stomach pains or cramps
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Body aches
  • Chest pain
  • Burns
  • Bloated stomach
  • Nausea

If you have any of these symptoms after using hydrogen peroxide, talk with your health care provider.

Extreme Dangers of Hydrogen Peroxide

The most dangerous side effects of drinking hydrogen peroxide can be simplified into three groups.

Direct caustic injury. When too much hydrogen peroxide is consumed, internal tissue in the throat or stomach is directly injured. Direct caustic injury could result in ulcers, mouth pain, vomiting, or stomach pain.

Oxygen gas formation. Also known as a gas embolism, oxygen gas formation can happen if you drink or clean a wound with hydrogen peroxide. Dangerous air bubbles form in your bloodstream and could cause side effects like chest pain, breathing difficulty, and disorientation.

Lipid peroxidation. Hydrogen peroxide can start a tissue-damaging reaction in certain parts of the body. Lipid peroxidation is associated with asthma, Parkinson’s disease, kidney damage, and more.

What to Do if You Drink Too Much Hydrogen Peroxide

‌If you drink hydrogen peroxide, your first instinct might be to make yourself throw up. Don’t do this unless a health professional tells you to. Call 911 or Poison Control right away. They’ll counsel you on what to do.

For a provider to make an accurate diagnosis, they’ll need to know certain details about you and about what happened. If possible, gather the following information and have it ready for when you talk to them:

  • Your age and weight
  • Your symptoms
  • What product you swallowed and how much hydrogen peroxide was in it
  • When you swallowed it
  • How much you swallowed

When you arrive at an emergency room or doctor’s office, they’ll check to see if you’re in immediate danger. If you aren’t, they’ll check your temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Depending on your condition, your doctor could also order blood and urine tests, a chest X-ray, an ECG, or an endoscopy.

To treat your symptoms, your doctor may offer a number of remedies:

  • An intravenous line (IV) to replenish your fluids
  • Medicine depending on your symptoms
  • A throat tube to relieve gas and pressure in your stomach
  • A ventilator that provides breathing support through a tube

Drinking hydrogen peroxide comes with risks. You shouldn’t drink it. If you’re aware of the dangers, you can safely use it in everyday products.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology: “Accidental ingestion of 35% hydrogen peroxide.”

CBS News: “The dangers of drinking peroxide as a "natural" cure.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Case Definition: Caustic or Corrosive Agents”

In Vivo: “Lipid peroxidation and tissue damage.”

Mount Sinai: “Hydrogen peroxide poisoning.”

Poison Control: “Hydrogen Peroxide.”

Public Health: “Tooth Whiteners & Oral Hygiene Products Containing Hydrogen Peroxide.”

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