PEROXIDE OF HYDROGEN AND ITS USE IN EAR DISEASES

WALTER B. JOHNSON
1892 Journal of the American Medical Association  
Peroxide of hydrogen, H2 0", as it is popularly call¬ ed, is chemically and correctly the dioxide of hydro¬ gen. It was discovered accidentally in the year 1818 by a French chemist, M. Thenard, but was little used either in manufacturing or in the arts until within the last decade. Pure anhydrous peroxide of hydro¬ gen is a liquid of syrupy consistence, colorless, hav¬ ing an acid reaction, yielding four hundred and seventy-five times its own volume of oxygen on de¬ composition. The compound is
more » ... on. The compound is very unstable, con¬ stantly on the slightest exposure undergoing decom¬ position and breaking up into its component parts nascent oxygen and water. Bizett reports that the pure solution, anhydrous, readily destroys living tissues. Marchand writes "whatever will be the concentration of the peroxide of hydrogen, as long as it is made by the process which I employ in manufacturing the medicinal H2 02 it is always a harmless remedy, but it is unneces¬ sary to make it more than fifteen volumes for medi¬ cal purposes." Peroxide of hydrogen (medicinal) is a three and one-fifth per cent, solution of the dioxide in pure water, from which all irritating or injurious proper¬ ties have been removed ; it yields about fifteen times its own volume of oxygen and is commonly called a fifteen volume solution. In consequence of the instability of the compound, and to prevent its decomposition, the medicinal so¬ lution is slightly acidulated by the addition of mi¬ nute quantities of hydrochloric and phosphoric acid. It is slightly acid in reaction, colorless, almost tasteless and odorless, and will if tightly corked and not exposed to light, or a temperature higher than sixty or seventy degrees Fahrenheit, retain its prop¬ erties for an indefinite period. It may be used in full strength, or if apparently irritating to the pa¬ tient, it may be reduced to a one per cent, or stronger solution by the addition of distilled or carefully boiled water. It should be applied by glass or hard rubber applicators or sprays, as irritating and dan¬ gerous chemical combinations occur as a result of its contact with some metallic substances. No solution should be used unless it is thoroughly reliable, fresh and free from injurious impurities ; the ordinary commercial article is of no value for medi¬ cinal purposes, being irritating in its effect and un¬ satisfactory in the results obtained, in addition to holding in suspension poisonous chemicals. A chemically pure fifteen volume solution is en¬ tirely harmless either for internal or external use, and in this possesses a decided advantage over any of the other drugs used for similar purposes, which approach it in efficacy as a destroyer of pus, bacteria or germs. The solution, if in perfect condition, upon its application to any diseased surface of the skin or mucous membrane, immediately undergoes decomposition, the nascent oxygen which closely re¬ sembles ozone in its chemical effects, is thrown off and enters into affinity with the pus, bacteria or germs present, the pus is destroyed and the albumi¬ noid matters of the secretion are coagulated, the germs and bacteria are annihilated. The nascent oxy¬ gen, which is the valuable constituent for cleansing, disinfecting and destroying germs, is in consequence of its instability rapidly converted into oxygen dur¬ ing the reaction. The chemical action of the solu¬ tion if fresh occurs immediately upon its application and causes the formation of large quantities of white or yellowish colored froth. The peroxide solution is much more active than any of the other remedies used for the destruction of microbes ; the following table, which has been arrang¬ ed after axhaustive experimentation, by Charles Mar¬ chand, the chemist, who manufactures the medicinal solution which is in most general use by medical men, is intended to illustrate the comparative efficacy of various chemicals, in the destruction of the mi¬ crobes present in half a gram of diphtheritic mem¬ brane. The peroxide of hydrogen is claimed by this table to possess qualities as a destroyer of microbes not approached by any non-poisonous drug, and ex¬ ceeding in efficacy most of the poisonous germicides. The mixture or solution used contains like the peroxide solution three and one fifth per cent, of the active constituent.
doi:10.1001/jama.1892.02420180008001f fatcat:jbcdw44o5veebkuxxyg2idb3yy