Experts warn against using hydrogen peroxide for respiratory infections

Copyright AFP 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

Doctors, medical associations and public health authorities warn inhaling hydrogen peroxide is dangerous, but anti-vaccine advocates claim the chemical compound can cure respiratory illnesses such as Covid-19. This is false; experts say the supposed at-home remedy -- first popularized at the height of the pandemic -- is unproven and can worsen symptoms.

In a Facebook video shared January 16, 2023, Mike Adams instructs viewers to "take a standard nebulizer" and inhale hydrogen peroxide and a small amount of iodine.

"You breathe it in and you're coating your entire upper respiratory tract with a little tiny amount of iodine combined with the pathogen-killing potential of hydrogen peroxide," he says in the clip, taken from a February 28, 2020 episode of InfoWars's "Alex Jones Show."

Screenshot of a Facebook reel taken January 20, 2023
Screenshot of a 2020 episode of the "Alex Jones Show" taken January 20, 2023

 

 

Adams is the founder of the alternative health website Natural News, whose Facebook page was banned in 2019 for violating spam rules. He frequently appears on InfoWars with Jones, a US radio host who made millions by spreading conspiracy theories about mass shootings and Covid-19.

During the 2020 segment, Adams promotes Survival Shield, an iodine supplement that InfoWars sells for nearly $40 a bottle. Not long after the video was published, the US state of New York's attorney general ordered the company to stop claiming its products could protect against Covid-19.

Still, there are several more recent articles promoting the supposed benefits of inhaling hydrogen peroxide using a nebulizer, a device that turns liquid medication into a vapor. The claim has also spread across Twitter, YouTube and TikTok.

In one TikTok video, a small child appears to inhale hydrogen peroxide, a common household disinfectant. The post sparked an outcry and was later removed from the platform.

"Inhaling hydrogen peroxide is dangerous and can cause damage and inflammation in the lung," Aliasger Salem, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Iowa, told AFP. "It does not prevent or protect against colds, respiratory viruses and Covid-19. In fact, it could make the symptoms worse."

This is not the first time hydrogen peroxide has been promoted as a miracle cure online. AFP previously fact-checked posts in multiple languages that falsely claimed the compound can treat cancer.

Unfounded, unsafe

The posts claim to offer a cheap and easy solution for fighting infection -- the latest in a long string of unproven remedies and medical misinformation that became widespread during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Foundation, an organization dedicated to preventing lung disease, says on its website that "nebulizing or ingesting hydrogen peroxide is dangerous." The group adds there is no proof it is effective at fighting infection.

Nebulized hydrogen peroxide is not a proven Covid-19 treatment, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, which says on its website that inhaling hydrogen peroxide may cause damage to the lungs.

Ingesting hydrogen peroxide can cause tissue damage and headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Cashing in

Since the onset of the pandemic, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent warning letters to numerous companies for "allegedly selling unapproved products that may violate federal law by making deceptive or scientifically unsupported claims about their ability to treat or cure coronavirus," according to the agency's website.

A company called StuphCorp received a cease and desist letter from the FTC for advertising nebulizer products and claiming they could be used with hydrogen peroxide to treat or prevent Covid-19.

Another letter recipient was Joseph Mercola, an anti-vaccine advocate who was one of the first to promote the regimen. In 2020, he posted multiple videos claiming hydrogen peroxide could successfully treat viral respiratory illnesses, including Covid-19.

The FTC has issued multiple warning letters to the Florida-based osteopathic physician -- who runs a multimillion-dollar health business -- for selling "unapproved and misbranded products related to coronavirus disease 2019."

AFP has fact-checked other Covid-19 misinformation here.

COVID-19