Nebulised hydrogen peroxide shouldn’t be used to treat all respiratory illnesses

5 October 2021
What was claimed

Nebulized hydrogen peroxide “helps against ALL respiratory infections like colds/flu, sore throat, pneumonia, chest infections”.

Our verdict

The MHRA told Full Fact that it was not aware of any evidence that shows that inhalation of hydrogen peroxide would be effective in treating respiratory disease, and has “significant concerns” that this practice is not safe.

A Facebook post claims that nebulized hydrogen peroxide “helps against ALL respiratory infections like colds/flu, sore throat, pneumonia, chest infections”. It has been viewed over 1,000 times.

The post also says that you can buy hydrogen peroxide to dilute, and the attached video instructs viewers on how to use it in nebulisers at home. The information in the post is not correct and may be harmful.

A nebuliser is a device which turns liquid medication into a spray, to allow it to be inhaled.  The British Lung Foundation warns that a nebuliser should only be used at home if recommended by a healthcare professional, with appropriate training and using only the medication prescribed with it. 

Hydrogen peroxide is a substance which can be used as a disinfectant. It is used domestically and cosmetically as a bleaching agent, and also has medical uses in particular formulations. In the UK, for example, it may be used in small amounts in certain brands of mouthwash or skin disinfectant. 

However, nebulising hydrogen peroxide and inhaling it is a different matter. Organisations such as the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America have issued warnings about the practice, saying: “ DO NOT put hydrogen peroxide into your nebulizer and breathe it in. This is dangerous!”

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency told Full Fact that “there are no licensed hydrogen peroxide solutions for nebulisation for use in any indication”. 

It also said that it was not aware of any evidence that shows that inhalation of hydrogen peroxide would be effective in treating respiratory disease, and has “significant concerns that this practice is not safe”. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which produces evidence-based guidance and advice for health and social care practitioners, confirmed to Full Fact that it does not have any guidance or advice that recommends hydrogen peroxide as a nebuliser.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, false information that inhaling or injecting bleach could be a cure for the coronavirus has spread online. The World Health Organisation has warned that bleach and other disinfectants should not be introduced into the body.

Dr Jamie Alan, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, told the website Health.com that if hydrogen peroxide is inhaled "it goes to the lungs where it can damage cell membranes,". She explained that if you inhale too much hydrogen peroxide, "you can do some major damage to your lungs".

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because nebulised hydrogen peroxide can be harmful, and is not a recommended medical treatment.

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