An emerging alleged “home treatment” for COVID-19 shared on Facebook and other social media platforms involves inhaling a mixture that includes teaspoons of household hydrogen peroxide through a nebulizer, which is a “breathing machine” used to treat asthma.
This treatment was also previously touted as a “home treatment” for illnesses such as COPD.
Can you use nebulized hydrogen peroxide to treat COVID-19?
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
- Researchers from the University of Passo Fundo Dental School in Brazil
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- National Capital Poison Center
No, you should not use nebulized hydrogen peroxide to treat COVID-19. Hydrogen peroxide can be hazardous to your health if inhaled or ingested, and there is no evidence it is effective in treating COVID-19.
WHAT WE FOUND
“DO NOT put hydrogen peroxide into your nebulizer and breathe it in,” the AAFA said in a September blog post. “This is dangerous!”
Hydrogen peroxide is a household cleaner that is diluted to 3% in household products. It’s diluted to about half of that in mouthwash intended to be spit out, and can be as much as 10% in hair bleach solutions. More concentrated solutions are used in industrial settings, often as a bleaching agent.
A nebulizer turns liquid asthma medicine into a mist that is breathed through a mask or mouthpiece. People with asthma can use nebulizers at home.
While a person may be exposed to low amounts of hydrogen peroxide while using it to clean at home, higher exposures of the chemical can be dangerous. The ATSDR says inhalation of 3% hydrogen peroxide can cause respiratory irritation, and inhalation of more concentrated forms of hydrogen peroxide — above 10% — can cause severe irritation in the lungs. Ingestion of the more concentrated solutions can burn tissues and at high enough concentrations can cause respiratory paralysis. The National Library of Medicine calls these symptoms hydrogen peroxide poisoning.
There is no evidence that inhaled or ingested hydrogen peroxide is effective in treating COVID-19. A 2021 trial conducted in Brazil tested mouthwash with 1% hydrogen peroxide and nasal spray with 0.5% hydrogen peroxide — the patients were monitored for adverse effects of the solutions — and concluded there was “insufficient evidence to demonstrate that H2O2 is effective as an auxiliary treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.”
Hydrogen peroxide solutions are on the EPA’s list of COVID-19 disinfectants, but the EPA warns that products on the list “are for use on surfaces, NOT humans.”
It’s important to remember that the way everyone’s bodies interact with chemicals is different, and even a person’s own body will react differently in different scenarios at different times, much like with alcohol. Just because a solution didn’t appear to cause harm for one person doesn’t mean it won’t cause harm for another. The National Capital Poison Center said an 82-year-old woman died after 15 days in the hospital after she swallowed “two tablespoons or less” of a 32% hydrogen peroxide solution.