Your child is foaming at
the mouth! Chances are he got into the hydrogen peroxide bottle.
And, chances are he will be perfectly fine…even though all of those
bubbles look scary.
Hydrogen peroxide is a
combination of hydrogen and oxygen. (The foam is oxygen bubbles.) It
comes in several strengths.
Household peroxide is
sold in brown bottles in drugstores and supermarkets. It
contains 3 percent hydrogen peroxide.
Hair bleach is about 6
to 10 percent hydrogen peroxide.
“Food grade” hydrogen
peroxide is 35 percent. Despite its name, “food grade” hydrogen
peroxide should never be taken internally, unless it is
of hydrogen peroxide, up to 90 percent, are used in industry.
Children who swallow small
amounts of household hydrogen peroxide have few if any problems. The
most common symptom is stomach upset and possibly an episode of
vomiting. When peroxide is swallowed, it generates oxygen bubbles in
the stomach. If there are enough of them, they stretch the stomach
out and the child vomits up the foam. Hydrogen peroxide can be
mildly irritating, so the child could complain of a bit of mouth
soreness and stomach distress. A small drink of water or milk
usually is all that’s needed. Hydrogen peroxide is not absorbed from
the stomach into the body; once a child’s stomach settles down, no
other problems are expected.
It’s different if someone
drinks a large amount of household peroxide. When this happens, it’s
usually on purpose. There can be a lot of stomach irritation and
even burns that require a trip to the emergency department and
possible hospital admission.
concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can be very dangerous because it
can cause tissue burns. “Food grade” hydrogen peroxide is sometimes
used as an alternative therapy for a variety of conditions:
allergies, arthritis, HIV, diabetes, emphysema, lupus, shingles,
warts, and irregular heart rhythms, among many others. (These
recommendations are not based on scientific evidence.) Users are
instructed to put a few drops of the concentrated hydrogen peroxide
into a glass of water. Users often store the hydrogen peroxide in
the refrigerator – and that’s the dangerous part of this practice.
People mistake the bottle of concentrated hydrogen peroxide for
something good to drink. Children and adults who swallowed
concentrated hydrogen peroxide suffered severe injury, and in some
Hydrogen peroxide and its
relative, carbamide peroxide, are used in tooth bleaching materials.
These preparations are sold for home use and in dental offices.
Because hydrogen peroxide is known to be irritating to tissues, home
users must follow directions closely to avoid problems. Tooth
sensitivity may occur during treatment along with gum irritation.
Anyone who chooses to use a home tooth-bleaching product should
first consult with a dental professional.
During use for any
purpose, hydrogen peroxide could splash into the eyes. If this
happens, immediately rinse with plenty of running water for fifteen
to 20 minutes. Then, call the poison center at
Hydrogen peroxide splashed
onto the skin could cause the skin to blanch, or whiten, for a short
time. The area might feel tingly for a while, too. Again, rinse with
plenty of running water. Skin burns are possible if it was a high
concentration of hydrogen peroxide. Call the poison center for
At one time, hydrogen
peroxide was used to disinfect skin wounds. This is no longer
recommended, since research has shown that hydrogen peroxide can
irritate or damage the cells needed for wound healing.
sometimes is still recommended to cause dogs and cats to vomit if
they swallow poison. Find out from your vet what the correct dose
would be for your pet should vomiting be needed. But, call your vet
or the poison center first before causing an animal to vomit. Some
substances can be more dangerous to bring up than to leave down.
Also, not all animals are capable of vomiting.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Medical
management guidelines for hydrogen peroxide [Internet]. Atlanta:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2011 Mar 3 [cited 2012
Apr 22]. 20 p.
American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs. Tooth
whitening/bleaching: treatment considerations for dentists and their
patients [Internet]. Chicago: American Dental Association; 2010 Nov
[cited 2012 Apr 22]. 13 p.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Animal
Poison Control Center. What to do if your pet is poisoned
[Internet]. New York: American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals; [cited 2012 Apr 22]. [Approx 2 screens]
Pritchett S, Green D, Rossos P. Accidental ingestion of 35% hydrogen
peroxide. Can J Gastroenterol 2007;21:665-667.
Wilson JR, Mills JG, Prather ID, Dimitrijevich SD. A toxicity index
of skin and wound cleaners used on in vitro fibroblasts and
keratinocytes. Adv Skin Wound Care. 2005;18:373:78.