Can hydrogen peroxide collapse your lung? (Spontaneous Pneumothorax)
August 19, 2009 11:47 PM   Subscribe

I use hydrogen peroxide to clean out ear wax; could this have caused a bleb in my lung eventually causing my lung to collapse (spontaneous pneumothorax)?

I'm 24 and I recently had a spontaneous pneumothorax (collapsed lung). The culprit was a bleb on the top side of the right lung. Apparently this happens alot to tall skinny people (that's me)... BUT I wonder if there is more to it...

Once in a while (maybe 25-30 times total in my lifetime) I take a cotton ball, soak it in hydrogen peroxide and let about 10-15 drops go into my ear canal to clean out my ear wax (it's supposed to be safer than Q-tips)... I probably leave it in there longer than I should (usually 15 min) then just turn my head and do the other ear...

1 or 2 years ago I left hydrogen peroxide in my ear and fell asleep, when I woke up I had a very sore throat and almost completely lost my voice for 2 days... Obviously the hydrogen peroxide made its way down my throat...

Here is my theory; I was on my side, fell asleep, then the hydrogen peroxide seeped out of my ear canal down my esophagus AND since I was on my side it seeped through my esophagus onto the top side of my right lung and caused a bleb that eventually opened and caused my lung to collapse.

In other words can hydrogen peroxide make it's way onto my lung from my ear canal anywhere between my ear and my esophagus and can that in turn cause a bleb?
posted by MrBCID to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Anecdata: I have, on multiple occasions, poured peroxide in my ears for 5 minutes at a time when I've felt an outer ear infection coming on. No blebs yet. Also, no MDs have said anything for or against this practice when asked.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:52 PM on August 19, 2009

My friend had one of those...lung bleb things...never mentioned hydrogen peroxide, but he is tall and was skinny.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:53 PM on August 19, 2009

A relative of mine has had two spontaneous pneumothoraxes, and is very tall and skinny. You might look into Marfan syndrome.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:57 PM on August 19, 2009

Hydrogen peroxide does not like to be hydrogen peroxide. It tends to decay into water and oxygen relatively quickly. Also the hydrogen peroxide you're getting in the bottle is pretty low concentration. Also, it shouldn't seep through your eardrum into your throat unless you have a hole in your eardrum, which would be a bad thing you would probably notice. (Can you go swimming without water pouring into your Eustachian tubes?)

You probably just had a conveniently timed bout laryngitis that went away on its own, and the lung thing was just bad luck mixed with tall-skinny predisposition.

I am extremely skeptical that hydrogen peroxide in the concentration you would get from soaking a cotton ball would manage to do any damage to anything, much less your throat or your lungs.
posted by that girl at 12:05 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

been putting hydrogen peroxide in my ears my whole life on the advice of my audiologist aunt. no collapsed lung here.

i personally know two tall skinny dudes who had a lung collapse when they were under 26.
posted by nadawi at 12:12 AM on August 20, 2009

Welcome to the club, I've had 4 spontaneous pneumo's but none of them related to aspirating something (as far as we can tell).

Bleb's are basically blisters, weak spots in your lung tissue. I am (was) also tall, skinny and started having them at about 25.

Having been through this a lot, all I can link my collapses to is dehydration. Near as I can figure it my collapses always occurred in the morning within an hour of waking up. I point at dehydration because well, I felt dehydrated and it always seemed to correspond with drinking more alcohol or having more coffee than normal, exercising more than normal, or spending a lot of time on airplanes. My personal theory is that dehydration and stress makes it more likely that a bleb or the surrounding tissue will be less flexible, for whatever that's worth. Through the years I've had a VATS that turned up nothing funny and with the last one they ended up doing mechanical pleurodesis to eliminate the potential space, but all through that they never asked if I was around any chemicals or you know, breathed in anything funky from a liquid or chemical perspective.

Could the peroxide have made it in to your lungs, possibly...would it have caused a pneumo, probably not. I would think aspirating anything like that in a volume large enough to cause a bleb on the upper right quadrant of your lung would probably wake you up and is more likely to give you pneumonia than a pneumo. I've spent years on forums researching this condition and never stumbled across anything like this....of course spontaneous pneumo's are incredibly rare and everyone seems to have a different story.

I don't want to frighten you, and you should talk to your doc about this, but odds are you have additional blebs, and it's just a feature of being tall and skinny and having a large lung surface area. I know how hard it is to go through this, the predictions of relapse and the treatment procedures, it gets better. Honestly, and even if you turn out to be a case like me it's fixable and treatable long term.

Good luck!
posted by iamabot at 12:13 AM on August 20, 2009

I have a couple of friends who've had spontaneous pneumothorax and they were both skinny and neither did anything with hydrogen peroxide. Plus all the good, correct stuff that girl said about hydrogen peroxide itself. Stop trying to over complicate things, skinniness really is the cause.

I can see why you're reaching here. You can stop putting hydrogen peroxide in your ears but can't make yourself shorter or really change your build. By pinning the blame there you feel like you have more control over the situation. But really you don't, this condition just sometimes happens (moreso for people of a certain build) and you just kind of have to get over that fact.
posted by shelleycat at 12:20 AM on August 20, 2009

For this to have happenned, you would have had both a hole in your eardrum and a hole in your esophagus, both of which I think you may have noticed.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 12:43 AM on August 20, 2009

People gargle hydrogen peroxide, so I'm going to say... no, it won't collapse your lungs.
posted by rokusan at 1:30 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Like PB Milkshake said, your eustachian tube is on the inside of your ear drum, not the outside. Even if the hydrogen peroxide could do such a thing, there's no way for it to get into your lungs from your external ear canal.
posted by gramcracker at 4:39 AM on August 20, 2009

Did you happen to have a tympanostomy as a kid? Where they put a small tube in your eardrum?
posted by orme at 4:52 AM on August 20, 2009

Add my vote to the no side. You're skinny? Welcome to the club. I got mine bumping into a goddamn wall.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:44 AM on August 20, 2009

IAINTADOCTOR but the h2o2 is unrelated to your collapsed lung.

I had a buddy back on '90 who was about 6'4" and light as a feather who was a garbage man. Same thing happened one night as he was putting a dumpster on the lift.

You're in a risk high group and might never know the proximate cause. Coulda been random. Absolutely certain (for many of the reasons given above, and more) that there is zero relationship betwixt the h2o2 and your bleb.
posted by valentinepig at 9:59 AM on August 20, 2009

Done the peroxide, had the collapsed lung, but not in that order. The answer is in the name: spontaneous pneumothorax, it's a condition that comes out of nowhere, with little or no real environmental or behavioral reason, typically around about your age in life, and your body type.

Don't overthink it beyond "shit happens", but do get your lungs checked to see if there are a lot of blebs (suggesting higher or lower future reoccurances, or desirability for corrective surgery - if you've had one, chances are high you'll get another), and learn the warning signs of a minor spontaneous pneumothorax, because they're not always big enough to collapse the lung, and you'd want to recognize it quickly and take things easy if that eventuates.

Because your profile suggests that you use the US healthcare system, note that future occurrences (and possibly lung issues in general) will now be classed as a pre-existing condition, so talk to someone who knows the insurance and healthcare pitfalls that can await you because of that.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:16 PM on August 20, 2009

Due you see Hugh Laurie anywhere nearby? I'm guessing not, so if you hear hooves then think horses not zebras.
posted by polyglot at 8:13 PM on August 20, 2009

No, seriously, what?!? IAADBNYD, and this might be the wildest speculative cause for a spontaneous pneumothorax -- and throat pain/laryngitis/whatever -- I've ever heard. No, there's (almost, because in science, there are no absolutes) no chance that one had anything to do with the others.
posted by delfuego at 6:38 AM on August 21, 2009

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