hydrogen peroxide phenomenon

Last Wednesday, nine days ago, I played in a softball game with my roommate Jacob and brother Joe. The fact that I hit 3 singles and a double, scored a couple runs and hit in another couple RBI is less important than the effects of sliding into second during my double. As a soccer player, I am used to sliding with my whole body, on grass (or mud or snow) and able to get up again to continue playing. At the softball fields, this slide is on a gravelly dirt and is interrupted by a base. This particular slide wasn’t my worst sustained softball sliding injury of all time but it was quite a bloody, dirty mess.

Naturally, I went home – showered, cleaning scrapes – then applied hydrogen peroxide afterwards. The Hydrogen Peroxide did what seemed to be its job: burned and bubbled. The wounds, scabbed over and pain free, gave me no other trouble or worry.

This past Wednesday, two days ago, the next softball game, Jacob came home scraped up. I handed him by bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide and he cleaned his cuts. He told me yesterday how much it burned and even woke him up during the night. I relayed to him: “bubbles and burning means it’s working.” Last night, he dug deeper into his bathroom closet and found a different bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide. He used it this time and it burned significantly less. His bottle had expired in 2012; mine in 2007.

Whaaaaa? 2007?! but it had worked on my wounds only a week prior. Yes! I understand that something from 2007 should not still be in my medicine cabinet but it had been ‘working’. Did his burn less because it was less infected than the night before? Does Hydrogen Peroxide lose its effectiveness over time? If so, in what way? Why did the older bottle burn more?

From what I could find, Hydrogen Peroxide does expire and if you leave the bottle open it will turn to just water. Furthermore, Hydrogen Peroxide is no longer recommended for treatments of wounds. The Hydrogen Peroxide can damage the skin cells from such scrapes. Soap and water will do. The threat does not worry me but I am baffled by the expiration phenomenon does. If anyone knows why this happened the way it did, please let me know.

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