Experts warn against ingesting hydrogen peroxide

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The claim: Drinking hydrogen peroxide oxygenates the body and kills pathogens 

A Nov. 2 Facebook post features a screen recording of a TikTok. A man identified as Dr. Cal Streeter is interviewed about the health benefits of drinking diluted food-grade hydrogen peroxide. 

“35% Food Grade hydrogen peroxide therapy to oxygenated (sic) the body and to kill pathogen (sic),” reads the video’s caption. The hashtags include “#herpes” and “#hiv.”

The video garnered 15 shares, but another version of this claim accumulated more than 7,000 shares in two weeks before it was deleted. The original TikTok garnered more than 7,000 likes in three months. 

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Our rating: False

Introducing oxygen by drinking hydrogen peroxide can result in serious injury and even death. Experts warn against ingesting any concentration of hydrogen peroxide and say it does not cure infections.

Ingesting hydrogen peroxide can dangerously increase oxygen levels in the body

A 2007 journal article published by the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology studied the case of a man who accidentally ingested 35% food-grade hydrogen peroxide and ended up in the emergency room with damage to his gastrointestinal system. The study found that drinking hydrogen peroxide can introduce more oxygen into the body than it can handle.

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Drinking 30mL of the 35% hydrogen peroxide can increase oxygen levels in the body by a whopping 3.5L, for example, according to the study. This sudden surge of oxygen in the body can exceed the amount the bloodstream can dissolve, leading to a gas embolism, or a bubble of air getting trapped in the bloodstream.

The symptoms of these air bubbles can resemble a stroke, the study found.

Experts say drinking  hydrogen peroxide can be deadly

Dr. Stuart Ray, vice chair of medicine for data integrity and analytics at Johns Hopkins University, told USA TODAY over email there is no truth to the claim that drinking hydrogen peroxide can cure infections. 

“There are some risks in handling more concentrated forms of hydrogen peroxide,” Ray said about the food-grade solution described in the video. “Solutions of 1% or less hydrogen peroxide are generally pretty safe but will also not do a thing about a viral infection.” 

Concerning the specific infections listed in the video’s hashtags, Ray said, “There is no evidence and no scientific reason to expect that taking hydrogen peroxide by mouth would cure herpes or HIV/AIDS.”  

A 1993 journal article published by the American Cancer Society came to the same conclusion: There is little or no evidence that hydrogen peroxide can cure serious diseases, and the substance has “demonstrated potential for harm.”

The National Capital Poison Center and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry warn against the ingestion of hydrogen peroxide as well.

The Food and Drug Administration even warns on the drug label for the lower-concentration, over-the-counter solutions that it is “for external use only” and recommends calling the Poison Control Center if you swallow it. 

Diluted hydrogen peroxide can be dabbed on cold sores caused by the herpes virus to aid in the healing process and reduce the risk of developing future cold sores, according to Medical News Today

While the over-the-counter solution is approved for surface treatment of skin abrasions and cuts, food-grade hydrogen peroxide, which is more than 10 times stronger, is not FDA-approved. 

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In 2006, the FDA published a warning specifically against purchasing or using high-strength hydrogen peroxide, saying it can cause serious injuries, like gastrointestinal ulceration, or death if ingested.

The website advertised in the Facebook video claims the hydrogen peroxide should be bathed in to increase oxygenation, detox the body, and treat skin infections, skin mites and yeast infections. However, the bottle itself warns, “If contact with skin, wash area with water.” 

Meanwhile, similar bottles of the high-concentration hydrogen peroxide sold online say, “The FDA does not recommend for internal use.”

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the post for comment. The TikTok user could not be reached.

This claim has been debunked by Lead Stories as well.

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