Quick Facts about hydrogen peroxide:
Hydrogen peroxide comes in different strengths and has many uses. Most calls to the poison center involve hydrogen peroxide 3% in the familiar brown bottle. It is used as a topical antiseptic for minor wounds. Hydrogen peroxide with a strength up to 10% is used as a “whitening” agent in tooth whiteners, hair bleach, and color safe laundry bleach. Ear wax removal drops come in the form of carbamide peroxide (typically 6.5%).
This information pertains only to inadvertent exposures to hydrogen peroxide less than 10%. Strengths higher than 10% can cause greater symptoms.
An accidental swallow of hydrogen peroxide can cause bloating of the stomach, belching, mouth and throat irritation, and vomiting. Prolonged skin contact to hydrogen peroxide can cause irritation or a tingling sensation. Sometimes there can be a bleaching or whitening of the exposed skin, which returns to normal within a few hours if it has been washed off right away, however, any hair in the area may remain permanently bleached. Getting hydrogen peroxide in the eye typically causes immediate pain and irritation, but if there is a prompt rinsing of the eye, severe injury is rare. Some contact lens disinfectant solutions contain hydrogen peroxide (3% or less) and may be mistaken for eye drops or regular multipurpose contact solution.
If you find your child has gotten into hydrogen peroxide, do not panic. Take it away from them, wipe out the mouth with a soft, wet cloth and give them some water or milk to drink. If someone has gotten hydrogen peroxide in the eye or if problems start and you have questions, call the Missouri Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222. The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions.
SPECIAL NOTE: Any exposure to “food grade” hydrogen peroxide (35%) or to industrial grade hydrogen peroxide is a potential medical emergency which requires calling the Missouri Poison Center right away!