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paul wheaton
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What makes it do that sizzle-ish thing?

I'm new to this stuff. I've had an outer ear infection for a couple of weeks and somebody suggested I put this stuff in. It sizzled a lot and got really hot. I've done two treatments, my ear is still infected and it's now all scabby and sore. This person says I need to do it more often, but I'm wondering if this stuff is eating my skin off!
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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A water molecule is two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, or "H<sub>2</sub>0". Hydrogen Peroxide is two hydrogens and two oxygens, or "H<sub>2</sub>O<sub>2</sub>". That extra Oxygen doesn't stick on too good. In fact, given the slightest provocation, it will fall off, grab a partner, and form O<sub>2</sub>, or molecular oxygen gas (i.e., two Hydrogen Peroxides come apart into two water molecules and one oxygen molecule.) That gas makes bubbles, of course.

When the oxygen atoms pop off, the water molecules go "BOING-G-G-G", because the energy from that chemical bond has to go somewhere. That boing-ing is heat. Chemists say the decomposition is exothermic.

It turns out that living tissue is an excellent "slightest provocation", because it actually contains enzymes, specifically designed to make this reaction happen (catalyze it, in chemist-speak). So dumping peroxide onto a cut exposes it to these enzymes (peroxidases), which make it quickly decompose, releasing oxygen as bubbles and energy as heat.

The oxygen does two things. The bubbles carry off dirt from little crevices that are hard to wash, and the pure oxygen itself kills some bacteria.

Thanks for this opportunity to revisit my earlier incarnation as a chemist. I will now put Mr. Wizard back in the closet.

[ EDIT: OK, subscripts. ]
[ November 08, 2005: Message edited by: Ernest Friedman-Hill ]
 
Michael Ernest
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I'd be more impressed if those 2's displayed as subscript...
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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P434r my m4d HTML sk1lz!
 
Sachin Patil
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My doctor recently prescribed hydrogen peroxide(as a mouthwash) for my toothache. But pharmacy fellow gave me looks like you know...and then he talked to the doctor about the prescription of h2o2 and again same look!! So I was bit confused, still tried and I didnt see much effect on my toothache.
[ November 08, 2005: Message edited by: Sachin Patil ]
 
Michael Ernest
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If God wanted me to have a younger brother you'd have been it, EFH. Feel it in my bones.
 
Jim Yingst
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So EFH, how long has it been since you had a chemistry question to answer? Have you just been wasting away, hoping someone would post one?
 
Marilyn de Queiroz
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H<sub>2</sub>O<sub>2</sub> is not a very effective antibiotic. Staphylococcus (some of which is pathogenic, like Staph aureus and some of which is not, like Staph epidermis which normally lives on everyone's skin) of any type is a super-fizzer. In fact, the hydrogen peroxide test is used in the lab to differentiate Staph from other bacteria such as Strep. You aren't getting much, if any, benefit from putting it in your ear.
 
Jim Yingst
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So Paul, based on MdQ's comment, the next time someone tells you to "stick it in your ear", you probably shouldn't take it literally.
 
Michael Ernest
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Originally posted by Marilyn de Queiroz:
In fact, the hydrogen peroxide test is used in the lab to differentiate Staph from other bacteria such as Strep. You aren't getting much, if any, benefit from putting it in your ear.

Um, Marilyn, did you the read the part about how it makes bubbles?
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
Have you just been wasting away, hoping someone would post one?


Apparently!
 
Stephen Boston
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Originally posted by Ernest Friedman-Hill:
A water molecule is two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, or "H<sub>2</sub>0". Hydrogen Peroxide is two hydrogens and two oxygens, or "H<sub>2</sub>O<sub>2</sub>". That extra Oxygen doesn't stick on too good. In fact, given the slightest provocation, it will fall off, grab a partner, and form O<sub>2</sub>, or molecular oxygen gas (i.e., two Hydrogen Peroxides come apart into two water molecules and one oxygen molecule.) That gas makes bubbles, of course.

When the oxygen atoms pop off, the water molecules go "BOING-G-G-G", because the energy from that chemical bond has to go somewhere. That boing-ing is heat. Chemists say the decomposition is exothermic.

It turns out that living tissue is an excellent "slightest provocation", because it actually contains enzymes, specifically designed to make this reaction happen (catalyze it, in chemist-speak). So dumping peroxide onto a cut exposes it to these enzymes (peroxidases), which make it quickly decompose, releasing oxygen as bubbles and energy as heat.

The oxygen does two things. The bubbles carry off dirt from little crevices that are hard to wash, and the pure oxygen itself kills some bacteria.

Thanks for this opportunity to revisit my earlier incarnation as a chemist. I will now put Mr. Wizard back in the closet.

[ EDIT: OK, subscripts. ]

[ November 08, 2005: Message edited by: Ernest Friedman-Hill ]


Wow!
 
Stephen Boston
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:

Um, Marilyn, did you the read the part about how it makes bubbles?

hahaha!
 
Bert Bates
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Hey -
I just had my first ferrier lesson today - managed to rasp a little skin off, and put some hydrogen peroxide on it - been using the stuff for years! I'd hate to think it doesn't work

- I also used to think it worked as a gargle for sore throats!
 
paul wheaton
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If it has two oxygens, why is it "peroxide"? "Per" is two?

So I guess the moral of the story is that it doesn't kill off all kinds of funk, but it isn't gonna eat my skin either. So using is might help a little and it won't cause any damage. Yes?
 
Gail Schlentz
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I've always used peroxide on things that seemed infected, or needed dirt "bubbled out", so I always thought it was a "healer". But here's my story...

I while back, I got my belly button pierced (ouch), and the guy told me to put "Bactine" on it as it healed. Well, I always thought Bactine was a wimpy little medicine, & surely couldn't help this heal. So I figured peroxide would be even better, right? Wrong!! Apparently what happened, was every time I got peroxide into my piercing, it bubbled up where the healing was supposed to be happening, and the thing never healed. I finally let it heal up, then had it re-done later. This time it healed within a week or so. Happy ending!

In case you're wondering what I wear in my belly button, it's a stud with a little yellow ball at the end that looks like this:

 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Originally posted by Paul Wheaton:
If it has two oxygens, why is it "peroxide"? "Per" is two?


In chemistry "per-" implies that the number of electrons an element is using for bonding in a particular compound is higher (or lower) than normal. I won't go into the details here, but for an oxygen atom, binding to a hydrogen and to another oxygen at the same time is an unusual arrangement of electrons.


So I guess the moral of the story is that it doesn't kill off all kinds of funk, but it isn't gonna eat my skin either. So using is might help a little and it won't cause any damage. Yes?


Well, Bert and I use it for stuff. Marilyn sounds like she thinks there's no point, though.
 
Michael Ernest
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EM: Apparently what happened, was every time I got peroxide into my piercing, it bubbled up where the healing was supposed to be happening, and the thing never healed. I finally let it heal up, then had it re-done later.

ME: Aye, lass. It's for cleaning. It does not promote healing.

EM: In case you're wondering what I wear in my belly button, it's a stud with a little yellow ball at the end that looks like this:

ME: Well I was going to bring a book for the plane ride today, but now my imagination is just swamped.
 
Gail Schlentz
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
Well I was going to bring a book for the plane ride today, but now my imagination is just swamped.



happy to help the cause!
 
Stuart Ash
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Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
If God wanted me to have a younger brother you'd have been it, EFH. Feel it in my bones.


For some time initially, I actually thought the two Ernests were one and the same character!!
[ November 14, 2005: Message edited by: Stuart Ash ]
 
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
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